Thursday, December 10, 2009

Knowing Your Worth!

Holiday musings...

I have said before that often we deal with people who know the cost of everything and the worth of nothing!

Do you know your worth and are you ready to stand for that?

A singer who chats with me regularly sent me this post from a message board she frequents, wanting my take and thought it might make a good blog topic. Thank you Arianna for your input here!!

Here's the quote:

"I had a famous NFL football player here in the Tampa Bay area approach me about working for him on NYE. He is planning a charity weekend that includes a golf tourney, cornhole tournament, and fishing tournament. This event raises about $300,000.00 a year for the local children's hospital.

I was more than happy to first. THEN, he told me that he wanted me to MC and DJ the ENTIRE NYE event for 9 hours for free.

I checked into it, and professional services CAN NOT write off their services if they give them for free to charity. You CAN write off any expenses related to providing the service for the charity, but you CAN NOT write off the value of the service itself.

I've done major events in the past, and even the exposure doesn't particularly lead to any other jobs, so I'm not sure that is a good incentive.

I'm not trying to come off as selfish, but isn't 9 hours unreasonable with very little incentive beyond the charity work itself? Thoughts??"

Is this an unreasonable request???? ABSOLUTELY!!!!

Holding a charity event is about raising MONEY for a charity, not about "hiring" and not paying! If you have entertainment, caters et al - they need to be paid for their time and their work.

This is a typical sense of entitlement from the guy who is organizing this. Ridiculous. He should be ashamed of himself. The people he is inviting to the event are the ones who should be and will be giving money to this charity, not those who are working for the event. Again, someone who doesn't know the etiquette nor the business of how to organize and plan an event.

So, how much are we responsible in educating those who might hire us?

Each potential job has to be taken at face value in my opinion. As an artist, as "work for hire" - soloist, entertainer, whatever - we must know our worth, and we must know how we put a dollar figure on that for our time and effort.

I am often asked how I come to my teaching fee - and I don't charge for my expertise - I charge for what my TIME is worth to me, while still trying to be fair to my students.

As a performer, it is about time too. Leaving expertise and talent and artistry out of this business transaction for a moment, what is your TIME worth?

Unless you are in a position of wealth, position, celebrity, and can afford THIS type of generosity, most of us are working singers and actors and performers. This means work for HIRE. Hire means a fee. A fee means money.

It is very simple. This is the business of what we do. We cannot confuse the business with the art. And we cannot dismiss the worth of our artistry but also the worth of our TIME. We cannot get our time back; Our time is valuable and WE must value it in order for others to respect it.

I am going to say that again: We must value our time in order for others to respect it.

Our time is what we can negotiate a fee for. Selfish has nothing to do with it. Time/fee and negotiation are business concepts that we must work with and stay clear about. Feelings do not play in business. Business is business.

We must know our worth in our time, and in our expertise; we must know our worth in our talent, artistry, individuality, uniqueness;

Those can afford to pay us, and still ask for a freebie are being disrespectful. They must be held accountable. Educating someone like this doesn't need to take a great deal of time or effort or investment - but finding a way to show HOW you are a business is crucial to SPEAK business.

With the above query, it sounds to me like this football player/business (?) man doesn't understand the concept of "charity event". The fees to the tournaments should go to the charity, not the wages of the performers or DJ or catering staff! In this case specifically, a DJ playing and "on" for a nine hour event, needs to get paid his fee. Plain and simple.

This is great template to all of us as performers. We must know our worth, and in knowing, we can then afford to be generous when and where we can.

We are often asked to donate our talents to a worthy cause. And we do, if we can. However, we should not and cannot be required to give AWAY our time and expertise. This is a fine line, and we must find it. The line moves depending on the situation, and we must stay fluid to greet each situation as it - unique - and consider what is being asked of us.

Knowing your worth helps you create boundaries, and helps you make decisions about who you are and what you stand for; It teaches you what you can afford and what you cannot - in every realm! Knowing your worth then allows you to CLAIM that worth and not apologize for it.

You may negotiate a fee, but your WORTH is not negotiable. Be prepared to be flexible in negotiation of COST, but never relinquish the WORTH of you and what you do.

So, if it costs you nothing to be generous - and you WANT to do it, do it; but if a request comes to you that does not respect your worth, and will cost you more than you can afford - on ANY level - then graciously withdraw and say no. An explanation is not necessary, but if asked why, then you CAN educate, if the one asking the question truly wants to listen.

Walking away from a gig - paid or not - is something we all have to do from time to time in order to keep our worth intact. Our worth is priceless. The fee is negotiable only when it makes sense to you. You owe no one an explanation. Your business is YOURS.

Contribute - yes; give it away? absolutely not.

In this season of "giving" - perhaps learning how to SHARE what you possess, is truly the art of "giving" and not "giving away".

In this DJ's query - he gives when he shares his talent and time for his business; And should be compensated, otherwise his worth is lessened.

So it should be for all of us. In all instances, share your artistry. Negotiate your fee for your time. Be generous when you can afford to be - through artistry, through time, through money - but always ALWAYS know your worth, and always ALWAYS demand the respect of that worth.

Saying "no" is not being selfish, nor is it a flaw. Saying "no" sometimes means just taking a stand.


  1. What a great post! I've been aware of this concept for years, but have never quite been able to articulate it. Thanks!

  2. Thank you! I knew you'd be able to lay it out in a way that made sense! *laugh*

  3. Perfect! Susan, you sum this issue up beautifully. In all honesty, you asked for thoughts?.....
    9 HOURS work for "free", all in the name of "charity".... you have GOT to be damn kidding me.
    These Event Managers/producers, need to be told where to stick it. This is an INSULT to our business. Indeed, you are right, that a DJ for such an event would charge a fee. Pure and Simple. No "if's", no "but's".. A professional service IS a professional service, cahrity or not.
    So, we have to ask the question - WHY - performers/singers are the ones to always be asked to work for "free" for such events?....
    Anyone else, would simply say NO.
    However, it is the singer whom is somewhat "expected" to be charitable and offer their professional talents out 'for free'..
    It is, in a sense - as singers "job"... to take pay cuts, bid and barter conditions that should be - illegal, and fight for their worth as artists. Oh yes, of course..... its not a REAL profession, its just something we love to do, and we should be honored by the fact that we were even asked to sing! Thereafter, we of course go back to our "real" jobs (somewhere, stuck behind a desk), reflecting back on the wonderful night we had the "chance" to entertain. I have had ENOUGH of this attitude.
    Seriously. It is HIGH time, singers and performers got TOUGH, and not "lessen" the profession, which is indeed - A PROFESSION.
    Untill singers and performers UNITE on this issue....the expectation to "offer one's services for free" will NEVER CHANGE.