Doing it for money

When you work a normal job, unless you’re in a shop or the sales department, there’s no direct relationship between how you spend your time and getting paid. Most people in regular employment do not have to show up in person to get their money at the end of the month, nor do they even have to ask for it – it just turns up. The odds are if you work in a regular way, the only times in your life you’ll ask about money are when applying for a new position, and, just occasionally, asking for a rise. Mostly, the money happens.

Now, for those of us who are self employed, it’s a whole other game. We only get money by asking. We have to put a price tag on what we do, and deal with people who think it’s too much, or not fair, or who think we should work for free. We have to ask, every single time we’re hoping to get paid. Having done both… it’s a very different experience. It makes you acutely aware of the relationship between what you do and what you earn. It alerts you to all the things you do that do not pay, and it means you spend a lot of your time asking for money.

There can be something of a clash between the self employed culture and the paid employee culture. I suspect it comes because if you’re paid, you are a little bit disconnected from the process of money. A good book sells itself, right? So the person banging on about their book all the time is either an egomaniac or a shit writer…. Except in reality nothing sells itself and businesses have marketing departments, but if you’re not one of the minority working in that field, it’s largely invisible. It’s supposed to be invisible. You are supposed to believe you’re buying things because they are good, not because you’ve been seduced by the marketing hype of a pro.

If you never have to ask for money, then asking for money can seem like begging. It can seem like the poor option, the response of the not-good-enough. You never have to ask for money, so you have a cultural pre-disposition to finding the request a bit odd. You will pay if there’s a cashier, a door, a counter, something that looks like mainstream conventional checkouts and box offices, because you have also been cultured to consider this normal. The more separation there is between the person you give the money to and what you are paying for in fact, the easier you are likely to feel about the whole process. If the person creating the product or service is stood before you with their hand out, the odds are you’ll feel less comfortable.

For all the same reasons and because we are part of the same wider culture, self employed people often find it hard to ask for money or charge for services. It doesn’t help that we’re competing with the prices of the mass produced low quality mainstream and have to make a case for why our three times the price lovingly handcrafted alternative is worth your while. Even then, we don’t make a fortune. It doesn’t help that we can’t compete with the ability of big business to mass buy raw materials at a huge discount, as well. And of course, we don’t have marketing departments.

My suspicion is that if your own flow of money happens somewhere out of sight, as if by magic, you are more likely to find cash transactions distasteful. You are more likely to be uncomfortable about other people asking to be paid, and about dealing with people where there’s a more direct relationship between work done and money moving. The regularly employed are quite literally removed from all of that, and do not have to go through the humiliation of asking to be paid what they are worth – little wonder if that confers a sense of superiority over those who do have to ask.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “Doing it for money

  • druidcat

    Yes yes yes yes.

    And I found this recently too, on the same topic. Read the excerpt. Wonderful stuff:

  • Debi Wolf Reeves

    I totally agree! I used to do on line readings and now I only do face to face readings, from my home, with a pot of tea and home made cake or biscuit, with many readings running over the time and people still think I am expensive, when the same reading on line would be double. Plus I teach Yoga and also one-on-one sessions. In london, you will pay upwards of £25 per hour. I charge much less than that and still get people telling me I am expensive. I teach Yoga at a private firm in their gym one day a week and they decided to pay me directly, rather than the students. Of course, I had to negotiate the price and they still argued with me. A multi-million pound international conpany! And they don’t pay me on time!!!!!

  • suffolkfolktales

    Oh this is so so true. Doing both at the same time (part time work + freelance) leaves you in a very odd place, too. Hate asking for money and hate marketing too. Great effort to do both.

  • greenmackenzie

    Can only agree with all of this.
    The disconnect also means that paid employees often forget about and take for granted things like paid holidays, sick pay, holiday cover….to name just a few.
    But the price is the loss of freedom and choice about what you do, where and how often….
    Anyone who has to handle their own money has to overcome the challenge of self worth I think.

  • Chris Hurst

    Lots of great points raised, as ever. Jinny and I have both found (being respectively qualified in psychotherapy and homeopathy) that it’s actually easier to get people to part with money for an item rather than a service. I learned this at a homeopathy conference … I was selling beautifully crafted (but “expensive”) artworks of remedy representations and someone else had a stall selling jewellery at higher prices. Guess where the queue was and where the transactions took place ….. So, I now make tangible things, wearable artworks I guess. Typically I work a 12 hour plus day, at least 6 days a week, we have a lifestyle a lot of people seem to envy ….. but together we don’t earn enough to pay tax, could probably claim a load of benefits (but we prefer to be independent) and generally have to juggle daily life in resourceful manner. I used to do markets and fairs – that’s always a great source of “advice” as to the “worth” of any item. Tediously so.

  • caelesti

    Very good points. Trying to get a job feels a lot like begging too. Please just one interview!!!

  • verdant1

    As someone who both earns a wage and is self-employed (both part-time), thank you so much for putting this into words. It really helps me understand my struggles with asking for money and valuing myself and my work. I think I’ll be chewing over this for awhile 🙂

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