Are You Worth More Than a Dollar an Hour?

As a teen, I was such a good babysitter that I got regular calls from nine different families! I thought it was because I was always available, played well with the kids, and cleaned up the messes. Now, I think it was also because I was the bargain of the century. At a dollar an hour, I was a steal! Granted, this was the early 80s, and none of my friends were making more than two – three dollars an hour to sit, but I couldn’t even bring myself to charge that!

You could argue that the people who hired me could have done the right thing and offered to pay me more, but really, the responsibility was mine. And I think a lot of artists will relate to my reasons for not wanting to raise my rate.

1) I was afraid I’d lose those jobs. 2) I worried if I asked for more, they’d see me as greedy or I’d cause them distress. 3) I thought I was doing them a kindness; that by keeping my rates low, I was enabling them to get out and enjoy themselves. 4) I felt like I was just a kid and probably didn’t deserve more money anyway.

Are you still writing articles for no pay thinking you “need” the byline? Are you jumping in to offer a discount on your painting before you’ve given the buyer a chance to pay full price? Are you keeping your fees low because you believe art should be accessible to all? Because if you aren’t valuing the work you do, why should I?

I’ll be happy to pay you less, especially if you seem to appreciate it. If you tell me it’s “not your best work,” I’ll take you at your word. What do I know? If you tell me, though, that this piece took you 30 hours to complete and you’re proud of it, I’m going to feel like whatever I’m paying is probably not enough. Don’t be afraid to show off your effort. Don’t be afraid to tell me that you are good and your rate reflects that.

In the past 22 years, the theaters I frequent have doubled their ticket prices. And I’m still going. So are other patrons. In fact, one of the theaters is busier than I’ve ever seen it. Why? Because they’ve proven to us their product is worth it. They don’t have to prove it anymore.

Is your work worth it? If not, when will it be?