These photos have nothing to do with this post. Just the living room captured with my camera this morning.
I’m thinking on my feet here.
I had to do a bit of negotiating yesterday with the theater. At the end of the phone call, I brought up the daily fee for my services and I was quoted a very lowball number.
I tend to give theater companies a bit of a break because I know that budgets are tight. But this particular number was way too low. So I responded with a number that was twice what they were quoting (yet still less than I can get elsewhere) and added that I wouldn’t work for less. I was told they would get back to me. I went into the living room and told Don and he wholeheartedly agreed with me. Unlike Don, I don’t have a union representing me. It’s me, myself, and I.
Here’s the interesting thing about placing a price on your expertise: I think many of us tend to undervalue our skill set and don’t always feel comfortable in any sort of negotiating situation. I speak for myself when I say that, for years, I tended to undervalue my work. That doesn’t include those times when I accepted a low salary simply because I needed the experience and I was building my resumé. I did that deliberately because it was about beginning a career.
And it wasn’t an issue when I was teaching full-time and coaching on the side because the combination of both salaries was more than adequate. However, since I’ve been freelancing for the last 14 years, I’ve had to learn to be firm when it comes to quoting a price for my work. It hasn’t been easy. I tended to be self-effacing and insecure and that carried over sometimes into an almost apologetic price quote on my part or a willingness to accept less than I deserved. When you freelance, you are often faced with no work on the horizon, and any offer of work is all too easily grabbed like a life preserver. That can end up biting you in the tush if you’re not careful.
It took me a while, but I am now proud of where I draw the line. I’ve also come to the point where I can do it without any sort of emotional attachment. I think of it this way: I’ve been working in the theater for well over 30 years. I’ve been coaching for almost that long. I’m really good at what I do. If you want me to help you out, you have to be willing to pay.
And let’s be honest here, no job in the theater pays all that well. It’s all relative. You have to love working in that medium, you have to love working in the arts. Without that love, you’ll always be frustrated because you’re never going to earn big bucks.
The theater was doing what they have to do, trying to work within a budget. I absolutely understand that. In the end, they agreed to my figure and everyone is happy.
I see the same thing happening in the blogging world, which, let’s face it, is a bit like the Wild West. As more and more bloggers start to do sponsored posts and/or work with certain companies, there are lots of discussions about just what to charge. Because bloggers can be taken advantage of quite easily, with the assumption that they’ll work for free just for the opportunity to attach their blog name to a product. I have turned down many, many offers like that. Are you kidding? You want me to write a post for you, for free?
Blogging takes time and energy and lots of thought and planning and quality photos, so a good camera has to be invested in, and editing and editing again. If the blogger wants to grow a readership, then time is spent on that, as well. I could go on and on and, as you know, I’m not as invested in SEO and social media outreach – those things do take time and lots of it – though I do care about ad income. I will say that bloggers need to be paid for those services mentioned above, just as I am paid for my coaching work. Since very few blogs are viewed by paid subscribers, the content is free. Imagine. The reading audience gets to read fresh content, see beautiful photos, learn new things, and all they have to do is click on the post. All of that is supplied free of charge.
Would a magazine allow that? Absolutely not, nor should they. Would I allow that when it comes to my area of expertise? No and no.
But blogs are free. And that’s really wonderful. That’s what we love about the Internet. However, we have to be aware, as readers of that lovely free content, that a blogger’s time is also to be valued and honored and compensated. So, though frowned upon not all that long ago, ads are now a matter of course. And though sometimes it seems that all we see is sponsored content, remember that bloggers are trying to wrestle with creating a living wage in the wild west of blogging. And they deserve that.
If I added up the amount of time I spend on writing posts for this blog and my book blog, the hours I put in on a daily basis – taking photos, writing posts, editing constantly, replying to comments, researching, corresponding with readers, and in the case of the book blog, buying and investing in books that I review and share with my readers – if I totaled that all up and then compared it to my ad income? I can’t even go there. Much too disheartening. Depressing, even. If I earned, on a daily basis, the same amount I can charge for my theatrical work? Goodness, I’d be thrilled. I’d be beyond thrilled. I could earn a living with this blog.
But I do this because I love it. Truly. I love blogging. And most bloggers blog because they love it, as well. It’s fascinating, watching blogging evolve, seeing how it has changed. Bloggers are coming to terms with the same issues that a freelancer, such as myself, has to deal with. What is my work worth? What is my time worth? What is all the time I spend editing photos worth? What about the gas I put in my car to travel someplace, take photos, write a post and share it with my readers? What about the photo editing software I’ve had to invest in? Or, in some cases, the cost of running a self-hosted blog? What is my name recognition worth?
I don’t have the answers, but I do know that my initial impulse in writing this post was to talk about negotiating fees and claiming my worth as a professional in the arts. And then it morphed into a realization that blogging now involves a similar claim of worth.
It’s got me thinking, that’s for sure.