A man waltzes into a doctor’s office and hands his cell phone over to the poorly sweet receptionist.
“Can you check my messages and follow up with those e-mails for me while I visit with the Doc?” he says, leaning into her window.
“Just asking the Doc a few questions, right?” she answers, scrolling through the device.
“Yeah, off my chart of course,” he laughs over his shoulder, halfway to the Doc’s office.
Having worked at a physician’s office, I can guarantee this scene would never play out. And yet, I am all too familiar of this occurrence within my trade. Inside my MacBook, one will find a tiny folder housing the following:
- 3 Manuscript Annotations of novella length or longer
- 23 Resumes–8 revised, 15 original design + content
- 5 Local Business Flyers
- Endless Blog posts for an Etsy biz & ex-manfriend’s biz.
- 13+ Edited Collegiate Applications & Papers for friends, friend’s
lazykids, & former students
- Endless Fiction Annotations, some (with hope) will eventually workshop my fiction
This list is nowhere close to comprehensive, but it frames the work I’ve done while writing for a living. The work that I’ve invested countless hours in when I should have been hustling or honing in on my craft. The work that I will never be paid for.
“But why and for what?” Dear Readers might ask. I shrug a reply, complete with a waving gesture that is more feminine and frail than I wish it. Admittedly, some of this work was done for family + friends, and I would do it 500X over. Honest. Because I want every single dad working away his bones for his wee ones, every woman starting her own business, every mother going back to school, to be successful in carving out his/her dream version of life. I love helping others, and I am a ginormous believer in Karma. But I also love to pay my student loans each month. According to all of the work I’ve done, I should be able to. Shouldn’t I?
This seems to be the name-game for freelancers everywhere, as if we all bought the same shirt from Etsy spouting something clever about working free for lodging or a great date. But at some point, this perception of creatives and trade school grads having a “fun” day gig and thus, paying no mind/no money to the hours they toil at said craft must change.
Recently, I went out with my woman-friend, a massage therapist (who is more miracle worker than trade school graduate). A few moments into the evening, my little wing-woman evaporated. In true fashion, I opened an anterior door that revealed my friend just finishing a free massage on one while offering insight into her craft to another. Jokingly, I told her that I was going to sew her up a fanny pack to wear ’round in case this moment presents itself again, which it certainly will. And no, she is not naive. She is all giving with no notion of taking.
Much later, I told her over teacups about the dilemma I forever find myself in: people wanting all writerly things from me, and few offering much in return. She nodded in agreement, confiding that people text her of an evening to make house calls. “Oh, my sore shoulders-neck-knees-toes,” they text and text, blowing up her nightly rituals. I can only think of her strongly feminine hands, stretching and pounding the livelong day + night.
Like me, she has resting nice face. Like me, she is a woman. Perhaps these are parts of the puzzle that allow friends and foes to barge in with requests–which we sincerely love to oblige.
And yet, who will buy our roofs? Our rabbit food?
When my beautiful friend does charge, she struggles with charging as much as she should for services rendered. Another womanly worry perhaps? Or is this issue one that all crafters face outside of corporations? I don’t carry a Mary Poppins purse filled with answers. But I do know that the next time I need to get my yoga on, or a little bleach added to my weft, I will come bearing gifts that my creative pals expressly need. Because I value what they do to take care of the world about them. Because I value them.
Listen, I understand you’re hard up for a deep-tissue massage or a row of green beans in your backyard. But before you text your fave masseuse, before you run into your uber-friendly local gardener, think: “What can I offer her? What can I trade? What do I know or can do that would be of value to her?” The last thing you should do is take advantage of someone’s kindness or assume that they have time to dedicate to you–off the book. Simply envision their shoes pounding it out prior to handing them your own peddling penny loafers.
We’ve all been there. I too am at fault for assuming friends or even acquaintances won’t mind handing me a freebie or two. It’s all in good fun, right? Wrong-O. When attending university, my best comrade was a hairdresser just coming up in the trade. At the time, I had no idea how gifted she was, or of her price-point. And whenever my broke-student-weave came into town, I’d phone her up. She’d tend to my locks while we laughed and sipped Pepsi-colas and I always had The Best Time. When I was sufficiently bleached, I’d reach into my knapsack, offering to pay. Rarely would she take my dough. Sometimes I’d sneak money into a drawer of her booth, but it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. I was taking up her time, usually on the weekend, offering her dimes to the dollar when I should have:
- Phoned the hair salon
- Made a legit appointment
- Snagged one of the salon’s fancy pricing sheets
- (If she refused payment) sent her a check in the mail for the exact price, plus tip
My reasoning is not solely because it is and was her livelihood (she now owns her very own kick-ass hair salon, now). Moreso, it is because I value her as a friend, as a creative magician of a hair stylist. I’ve never found anyone who can work my messy waves into precisely what I crave with little to no direction. And she should be paid for that, just like you’d pay another stylist. (If not more because she is your bosom comrade.)
Do you struggle with charging what you should for your products and/or services? Have you found a remedy?
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