It Can Always Be Better

Monday, December 19, 2011

Healthy (Global) Competition, Slavery or Something In Between: Should We Fear It?

In 1999, I never imagined that photo retouching would be a service U.S.-based (domestic) companies would outsource to other countries for dirt-cheap prices. Walking the streets of downtown Manhattan, interviewing for the plentiful jobs in the field, I believed we had our niche locked-in.

At the height of the stock market’s “bull” run, most retouchers were billing between $200 and $500 an hour. No joke! Some still can bill around $200 an hour. However, it’s simply not sustainable in the growing global pool of photo retouchers and graphic designers.

Photo retouching and graphic design is one of the new fronts in the battle for clients in the domestic market. Says Doug Thoms in this article from the BBC: “…I work for many different companies, including some of the biggest and most successful advertising and financial companies in the world.
Outsourcing makes life very difficult for people like me. I have been personally hit by graphic design jobs being outsourced to low-wage workers in India…”

Now, the domestic retouchers are dealing with incredibly cheap work. The quality of such retouching—frankly speaking—is generally amateurish. It’s more appropriate for large resellers who need a couple thousand outlined products, or flash-in-pan companies trying to make a quick buck by utilizing cheap overseas labor. I’m not saying overseas labor provides inferior retouching. However, I do believe that clients who require one-on-one attention for specialized projects are simply wasting time dealing with overseas firms. In other words, they’ll save more money working with a domestic retoucher—language and culture differences notwithstanding.

Historically speaking, what goes around, comes around. And the chicken of “free” and “slave” labor has come home to roost: America has benefitted from cheap labor during the industrial revolution and slave labor from its founding up to that revolution. Every nation has its rise and fall. The ebb and flow of loss and progress—change—is the natural process of all existence. How we handle it is a greater test than the one of total domination.

However, what actions do we take to stay afloat as our countries’ leaders say and do things beyond our control which may increase or decrease the speed of the ebb and flow? What do we do as technology carries the world down the rocky rapids of technological evolution? My answer: Prayer, diversification of assets and a comprehensive understanding of what it means to be flexible!

No matter what happens, the bigger picture always leads toward a greater benefit for all of humanity. Sure, some of us will get berated, burned or betrayed in the process. However, if we hold the Golden Rule foremost in our motivations, we’ll never be overcome by the fear of passions from competition, slavery or something in between.

—Eric C. M. Basir
Originally written February 18, 2007

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