You go to work yes? And you do that to get money in return for your labour, whatever that may be.
It’s definitely caught on this exchanging-money-for-something-else lark. A quick wiki search tells me that the first coins came about around 2500 years ago, but ‘exchanges’ were common place a LONG time before that. Bartering was used as early as 9000 B.C to swap livestock for pottery, grains, beads and shells etc. Not a bad idea that.
So why, if this practice of compensating someone else for their time/goods/service is such an old tradition – do people have such an issue with paying people like me? I’m talking presenters, writers, photographers – we all suffer daily at the hands of people expecting US for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
I will give you some examples. As a radio presenter, you often attend events – openings of things, celebrations of things – you get my drift. Sometimes you attend with your show team, in order to meet up with good contacts, and get some great material for the show. That is fine, and a necessary part of putting together a daily live production. We also get involved in lots of charity stuff. I personally support Race For Life annually, I’ve worked with Jo’s Trust for cervical cancer a lot this year, and I am an ambassador for the Kent Children’s University. All causes I feel passionate about, and am more than happy to give my time to, for nothing.
But here’s the bit I just don’t understand – the constant requests for me and colleagues of mine to speak at events, host event nights, open fun days, write articles, or judge talent shows – for absolutely nothing in return.
Let me explain how this works for us. We are self-employed – and only get paid for the shows we turn up for. That is our choice, agreed. But in essence we are running our own businesses – and our product is ‘us’. The time in our days spent not on-air is mostly spent working on other avenues of work to keep the bills paid. We have mortgages, rents, utility bills, travel costs, childcare costs and general life living costs like everyone else. And let’s face it, it ain’t getting any cheaper is it?
So let’s look at how this would work. I want to break down a typical ‘gig’ that I may be booked for and what’s involved:
1) A number of phone calls/emails between myself and the ‘client’ to agree on a date
2) A load more emails after a date has been agreed to discuss what I am required to do
3) Quite a lot of research time then happens – finding out about the company, their ethos, what they are about and the particular event I will be hosting or speaking at
4) A look in the wardrobe to see if I have a suitable outfit – probably not. Which means time and money spent finding the appropriate clothing. This may sound shallow but it’s actually very important – a client’s image is key. They don’t want their host or speaker rocking up in something entirely inappropriate! (think Alan Partridge)
5) A few more emails / phone calls to confirm more details – times of arrival, location etc
6) The writing up of notes or cue cards – I never go empty handed as you never know when you might dry up
7) I then have to travel to the event, as cars only really get laid on for celebrities. This is time and money. Diesel is currently about 141.65 pence per litre. I don’t need to tell you how rapidly fuel prices have gone up in the last five years – we all know
8) The client usually expects you to arrive before the start of the event to meet them and test the PA system etc
9) Then of course there is the time at the event. Be it one hour, two hours or six – it’s my time
10) After the event I usually take some time to tweet about the event or share pictures, to help raise the client’s profile – which of course takes more time
It’s that old saying isn’t it – time is money.
So that gives you a rough idea of what goes in to attending an event – and a very real demonstration of why the people who do it should absolutely be paid.
As far as requests for my free labour go – there have been some corkers this year. For example my co-host and I got asked to judge and host a day long (and evening) talent show in the area. On a Saturday. We made it clear from the start that we have to charge a fee for such events. The person we liaised with agreed and said there’d be no problem. Months of emails down the line it became clear it was a fairly big job and they’d need us for about eight hours. It was only a couple of weeks before the event that we learned the Chief Exec of the whole operation had no intention whatsoever of paying us. I think she hoped that we just wouldn’t be able to say no at this late stage. There were even emails designed to make us feel guilty – telling us that ‘other people are giving their time for free’ – as if we were rude and above our stations to even suggest payment. I’m pleased to tell you the event fell flat on its face at the last minute and didn’t happen. Perhaps everyone involved realised they were being ripped off.
That is just one example of many this year. I won’t give you any more because you get the idea. It’s just a very bizarre phenomenon. I like to compare myself to a bottle of tomato ketchup (as you do) – if you want ketchup on your chips to enhance your chip-eating experience, you go to the shops and hand over money in exchange for your bottle of ketchup. You wouldn’t expect to walk out of that shop and take what you want without paying. It’s the same with people. If they (we) have a skill to offer that you want to enhance your event or business – be it taking some photographs, speaking at your event, or writing about it, they (we) deserve to be paid.
No one likes to talk about money. But I just have. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous about doing so though. I’m probably more nervous about this blog than any other. Because it’s almost become the status quo to NOT expect payment from freelance work. But that doesn’t make it right, and sometimes you have to speak out.
So feel free fellow self-employed folk to spread this blog post far and wide. But if you want it for an event – you’ll have to pay 😉