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Ask Amy: After all my work, she gave me $20. Was my reaction out of line?

Dear Amy: I am a people pleaser, volunteering at a nonprofit that helps Afghan refugee women. We provide fabric and a space with sewing machines where they can come and work. Lately, these women are making items that they may be able to sell.

Recently, “Kara” contacted us and asked us to create a copy of a dress she had. She told me that if we figured out how to make this, we could let the Afghan women make and sell them. She provided fabric for the copy.

I spent six hours figuring out how to make the item and documenting it with photos and instructions. I then made a sample.

I have been a professional seamstress, but I’m also a soft touch. I never charge as much as the work is worth.

In this case, I intended to ask Kara to give a donation to the charity so we could purchase more fabric. One hundred dollars didn’t seem out of line.

As it turns out, Kara loved what I did and wore the sample out the door.

I gave her the instructions and the pattern pieces, and she gave me $20 to donate to the charity.

She also told me that she and a friend might make these dresses and sell them. (I did tell her that I thought the project was not going to work for the Afghan women.)

After she left, I felt used, so I called her and told her that she needed to pay me for my time if she was going to sell this dress design for a profit.

However, now I feel guilty! I hate myself for calling her.

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Was I wrong to call her? Or am I wrong to feel guilty?

 In Stitches

Dear In Stitches: People often ask if they are “wrong” to feel a particular way. And my answer is always the same: Your feelings are your feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. They simply are.

Your job is to let your feelings guide you toward understanding and (possibly) change.

Your initial choices prevented you – and the organization you support – from receiving a justified compensation.

I suggest that your chronic undercharging is more a reflection of your confidence in the worth of your work than your desire to please.

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