Here’s a grand challenge. How would you solve it?
The story starts about two months ago, as I began preparing for the offshore vacation. (I’m writing this post on a boat in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar.)
In recent years we’ve added several regional online publications and weekly eletters, and the task of writing the content for these eletters has fallen to me. (I’m a writer by trade, after all.) But the problem is this: We don’t have a business budget to pay for my work while I’m away.
So I sought (and discovered) a solution, which raises challenging questions about the value of my work. Our writer based in the Philipines does a perfectly good job for less than $3.00 an hour. I set up a system with a Canadian editor (at North American prices), who would only need to spend about 30 minutes reviewing the copy; then we forward the content to an administrator in Romania who completes the uploading process for about $2.00 total cost.
In this context, either I’ve been overpaying myself terribly for my work before this vacation, or failing to understand the practical economics of getting the job done efficiently. I expect we’ll retain this system when I return from vacation, perhaps with the exception of replacing me with the Canadian editor — but maybe I’ll keep things in place, and plan another vacation.
Here is where the story gets messy, though. We work with a truly competent and honorable designer. He earns every cent he earns by North American standards. But offshore designers can do most of his work, I think, for about 20 per cent (or less) of cost.
It was a no-brainer to replace “me” with an offshore person. After all, I own the business and so can continue to draw my salary and profit regardless of how hard (or how little) I work. Pulling 20 hours or so a week out of my schedule without incurring additional business costs makes plenty of sense. I’ll just make as much or more money for less actual work. I can become a pure capitalist.
But the freelance designer has another problem. Should I just jettison a long-term contractor with ethics and really good work quality to save money offshore? It doesn’t seem right, and rationally explains Donald Trump (and Bernie Saunders’) objections to free trade/globalization. But equally, it doesn’t seem right to incur business costs which are absolutely unnecessary. With the switch to digital publication, graphic design has become our largest cost item: Should we not find a way to reduce it?
I welcome your observations on this topic. The best answer to me right now seems to be to respect the designer and offer hm an equity reward for his work; he would make money by doing much less work, and overseeing the offshore designer(s). But he isn’t like me, at 64, nearing pension age, and wishing to enjoy long offshore vacations. He needs to maintain his income and this change — while effectively dramatically increasing his hourly pay — will still result in lower income for him overall.
What would you do in this situation?