Can I Have This in an Hour? (Or, How to Earn Respect For Your Work!)

“Can I have this on my desk in an hour? It shouldn’t take you more than just an hour, right?”

You’ve probably gotten at least one such request this week for something that would take at least three hours to complete in a proper manner. And as soon as the offender walked out the room (or you finished reading the email), you *not so calmly* proceeded to bang your head against your keyboard.


And if you’re free riding freelancing the wild landscapes of internet-landia then maybe the offender didn’t say an hour but said something equally ridiculous as:

  • Can you get this 5000-word ebook done in three days?
  • Can you do me a completely new website by next week?
  • Can you come over for just half an hour to take some family portraits for us?
  • Can we just jump on a quick call to talk about my entire business strategy this “little thing” that’s come up for me?
  • Can you please deliver this new request I’m frantically making to you in my 9 pm email by tomorrow noon? (Read: You don’t take nights off do you?) Cheers!


And the implication in the request of the offender always comes down to this:

“How long does it take to do your work, anyway?”

Can’t a photo be taken in the click of a second?

If you’ve already spent hours studying the art of photography and more than a few minutes studying your specific landscape, subject, and current position. And not to mention that your subject may have spent countless hours to learn to hit that perfect one-second pose…

But, yeah, you just click that little button and–magic!–perfect picture! (Have a look at these babies for “proof.”

Can’t 5,000 words be written and read in 3 days?

Sure. If I’m senselessly pounding down on the keyboard stringing words together like a 3-year-old strings macaroni for her new necklace, then Yes! I can even do 10,000 words in 3 days! (Needless to say: plagiarism, unoriginality, and rehashing come standard in this package!)

But if you want thought and substance in your book, and points that do more than simply puke up the chewed-up arguments of someone else, then, no. I can’t write 5,000 words in 3 days. Especially not when I have 2 other clients lined up for those days!

Can’t you just do project X for us?

“Sure, it would take 10 days from our agreed starting day, and my next available slot is in 3 months. But if you’re in a hurry, I can also recommend someone else to help you out.”

Reasonable answer, we thought. Until THIS response came back. (And Yes, this is a real, real-life, real-business email request from a client!!!)

I was hoping that a project such as this, which is like the one you put together for us in the past, would not take too much of your time, as it was mostly text – which you could probably use from other projects – and given that you are so expert. It would be a snap.

Reply: Snap your neck, it’s what it would be!

Ah, just kidding. We’d never respond like that!!! No matter how badly we wanted to.

But did you catch the passive-aggressive flattery in that email that’s the underlying problem to all of these conversations?

“You’ve done this before,” “not too much of your time,” “you’re an expert.”

Um, yeah. And experts don’t plagiarize — which is essentially what the client was asking in telling us to “use text from other projects” (hint: NOT his projects) — or deliver unoriginal work — which is the only kind of work that doesn’t take too much time.

Needless to say, it was a definitive “No” to the project.
We didn’t need the attitude. You don’t need the attitude.
No one needs the attitude.

Because here’s the truth, naked as a birthday suit:
Nothing takes just an hour.

The problem here isn’t the “hour,” but the “just.”

Just. Implying that it’s simple and easy. Implying that anyone can do it. Implying that it’s not greatly valued. And worse?

Hinting at the low payment, we should expect for doing just this little task in under an hour.

This isn’t to make a case about freelance hourly rates or about how you should determine the prices of packages in your business. We’ve spoken about that elsewhere before.

But this is to make the case about the value of your hour.
Because there’s a lot more packed into that hour than any can meet and any offender will willingly admit.

Case in point:

You ask a chef to make a cake, and maybe she’ll have it on your plate and ready to eat in under an hour.

You ask us to make a cake, and we’ll be still puttering around the kitchen, chocolate and caviar spilled everywhere, long after the hour is over.

Who’s worth more and who’s working harder?

  • How much is our cake-baking hour worth and how much that of the chef?
  • Would you pay the pro chef less because it took her just an hour?
  • And should you pay us more because it took us longer?

The problem isn’t always the hour.

For a good client or a respectful boss, you’d probably bend over backwards to fit their request in your hour.
Because they value your hour.

But for an offender armed with a “just”? You should never give into anything.

This isn’t just an hour.
This isn’t just a photo.
This isn’t just a 15-min off-the-record advice.

This is my work, thank you very much.

And behind this hour?
There’s a lot of skill and talent and study and hard work.
Which make it a whole lot more than just an hour.

And to the offenders who assume and presume that this should take just an hour?
You need to learn to say no.

“No, I can’t have this on your desk in an hour.”
“No, I can’t write a book for you in under 3 days.” (Otherwise, you’d only be reading my name on the cover of novels, thank you very much.)
“No, I can’t revamp your entire website in under a week.”

Saying no can be hard because we want to please, and we want to perform, and we want to be the super-pros who can do it all.

Then there’s fear and doubt: Will I still get the promotion? Will I still get the client? Will I get other clients to replace this one?

But until we learn to start respecting our time and claiming the full value of our hour?
No one else will do it for us.

How much is your hour of inspired, studied, and original work really worth?