How much am I worth? This is not a self esteem post. Don’t worry I’ve got that in hand.
It’s a genuine question about pricing work in this industry.
The first part of the dilemma.
A corporate client is willing and able to pay multiple times more than a not-for-profit for comparable effort from me. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter who the client is, I “show up” with equal research, preparation and presentation. So should I have a set rate for all clients that reflects my egalitarian approach and worth as a conscientious professional? Or should I make allowances for jobs that simply can’t and won’t pay that rate because:
it’s a fun job?
it’s a good opportunity?
I’m happy to do a favour?
The second part of the dilemma.
How should I balance the requests to work for no payment, which I don’t mind from time to time, and what should I do about offers that are paid…but underpaid. I’ve spent many years volunteering at community radio station RTRFM 92.1 and I know there can be intrinsic satisfaction in a job done gratis, especially surrounded by others doing the same thing.
So I find the odd unpaid job far preferable to my bête noire, the underpaid job.
What I’ve worked out over the years is that there has to be a rock bottom fee. A number below which it is simply not worth my while to accept the job. A couple of weeks ago I was grappling with this exact frustration and put it out to my contacts on Facebook to get some perspective.
Consensus among the responses was that despite the notion of free work being an opportunity for exposure, the fact is that free work just leads to more free work. I completely agree with that.
But it was Daniel Hatch, my former ABC colleague, a switched-on, urbane and business-savvy journalist who nailed it. Dan has six years freelancing under his belt and his hard-won advice got the most attention on my Facebook post.
Then he wrote a blog about it. I’ve never written a blog about a blog before but this is worth sharing.
Daniel Hatch’s Tips for Writers Sick of Working For Free
I was also sent a link to Recommended Rates of Pay from the Australian Society of Authors which similarly highlights the fact that all work isn’t equal. The variety of work listed includes public appearances, judging and freelance work. Of course there’s a union for people in the industry, but truth is, negotiations around freelance work happen far from the glare of anyone holding a rule book.
I’m taking Dan’s advice and layering it on my last post. Be tougher. These organisations pay their plumber and they can pay me too. Thanks Dan.