“I really appreciated that she came to me for a filling. She needed x-rays, too, but I wasn’t sure I should charge for them. I don’t want to scare her off and lose her as a patient down the road. So I just did them for free.”
“Well, he’d already agreed to pay me to draw up the documents. Then he called for more advice; I spoke with him for another hour or so. Do you think he’d be insulted if I charged him for the phone consult?”
Can you imagine a dentist or an attorney saying either of the above? Of course not! But you wouldn’t believe the times I have had similar conversations with fellow writers. On second thought, if you are a writer, I suppose you would believe it. Because you’ve probably had similar worries somewhere along the way. I know I have.
What is it about creative fields that makes us devalue our work, taking little or nothing as payment and being grateful to boot for the opportunity? Why is it so hard to set a price on our talents? And why do so many assume that we will give it away simply for the joy of being asked? Or for the promise of “exposure.” Or the thrill of seeing our byline.
Why is this? Because art is perceived as being optional? Or because there are so many of us creative folk that we’re a dime a dozen? And a devalued dime at that. Or is it because creative fields, by their nature, rise from a place of evanescence? How do we value materially that which springs from places deep within us, places that we cherish as the essence of our highest selves? Does it cheapen our spiritual and artistic gifts when we have the audacity to ask for payment? Or does putting a price on our gifts make others respect our unique talents?
I’ve asked a lot of questions here. And I have no answers, really. Each of us has to decide how far we will go to be known, how many unpaid articles we will write for the promise of paid ones down the road, how many “opportunities” we will turn down for lack of payment.
On the upside, this blog brought a surprise by way of publication for a past post. A wonderful editorial assistant at Good Housekeeping magazine read one of my blogs and has paid me for its use. “On Dogwoods and Daughters” appears in the May issue. On the stands April 14.
Will I write a freebie every now and then? Sure. There are sites I enjoy writing for. I appreciate the opportunity and the site owners’ enthusiasm for my work. And I’ll occasionally serve on a panel gratis or speak for a non-profit for a reduced fee. But more often than not, even in these challenging times, I expect to be paid for my expertise. And you?