Common Scenario # 4: Have you ever had that wierd conversation with people, where they assume that your work is not really work?
Some years ago, an artiste friend of mine told me that she as a dancer and dance teacher was asked quite frequently if she or her students would like to perform. It could be a community event, a function or a festival, temples and once even at a dinner party for a visiting diginitary. When she has asked some of the people who came to her with these requests, if there was going to be a renumeration for the performance- the usual reaction would be utter shock! Shock that she had actually asked for any compensation at all!
The general feeling being that the opportunity to perform in itself its reward and why should she expect any MONEY??
When she’s asked if there are any arrangements for taking care of expenses, like travel or parking- the response is even greater shock- Really, you want us to pay you a few dollars to cover petrol?? You’re that cheap?
This is not an isolated experience of one artiste, several have told me- usually ruefully. It often happens when they are building their careers, and in a bind. They need the opportunities, but also need to be able to make a living. Art forms need both passionate engagement and devotion and time. A hungry artiste is not going to be good for long, and encouraging new talent will only happen if there is an avenue to make a living.
There is also a distinction in doing something as a passion and doing something to make a living. I come across this more times than I can count. As a social worker, you constantly getting questioned about expecting a decent renumeration “wouldn’t it be better to put that money into helping people” or “if you are getting paid, then why call it social work, that is what volunteers do”
Seriously, no social worker I know has made it into any rich list. We too have families to support, bills to pay and holidays to take. We just choose a profession that rocks our boat. And no- it’s never going to pay as much as a doctor, a banker or a lawyer and I don’t see too many people questioning a surgeon if he should really be charging $350 for a 20 minute consult!
Why did this come up today?
I had a number of calls over the last few days, asking me to quote for work. Most people were quite open about budgets that they have and the work that was expected. And I respect that immensely- if people are clear and upfront, its easy to work with them and I have routinely adjusted my costs because I believe in a project. A few have been very surprised that I would expect more than petrol & mileage. That is disappointing, since it shows very little regard for the over 20 years of study and professional development that I have invested in to get to where I am today. And expecting someone to “work” for free, because others volunteer is unfair.
But on a happier note, a dear friend asked me to volunteer my time on a project that would feed a major passion of mine. She was both open and understanding and her reading of my passion was spot on…..
And it crystallised my thoughts on what was bothering me – we need respect for both our work and our passion.
My various artiste friends…..I finally get your frustrations and so in awe of the time and energy you spend in constantly improving your work!!! Hurrah to ya’ll!