I thought because we're friends...
Picture the scene. It's payday you're all dressed up ready to go out on the town, hit the cash point and wait... You haven't been paid! All last month's wages have gone on food, bills and general living expenses. You call your friends and give an excuse as to why you're not able to meet them for dinner and drinks tonight, go home and munch on that last bit of bread you had to toast because it was going stale.
Monday morning arrives, you put few desperate bits of change you found down the back of the sofa into the fuel tank and drive to work. Going straight to your employer you ask why you've not been paid yet? They reply with,
"Well I thought because we friends you wouldn't mind giving up your wages this month. We've got a really tight budget and still need to get x,y & z done. Plus I'm going to tell everyone how great you are at your job and will pay you next time!"
How would you feel? What would your response be?
This scenario happens to often when you are self employed. Especially so in the creative industries be that face painting, design, music you name it. On all levels people don't seem to think self employment is the same as your average 9-5. Well you are right! It's not! For a start we don't get the security of a guaranteed income every month. We work more hours than most trying to get clients in such competitive industries. Please don't forget the super long days that turn into weeks without a day off during the school holidays. The hours and days spent advertising, promoting and oh yeah, the admin that takes you through the night.
What many people see, in my experience at least, is someone with a hobby who only works weekends. There seems to be an underlying assumption that I must have a 'real job' that pays my bills. I know this because I get asked this at least once at every event or party I attend. This is my real job and I have to budget very carefully to pay my bills. I can not do monthly direct debits because I can't guarantee I will have earned enough each month. Everything has to be in annual lump sums and if something unexpected happens like my clutch goes then God help me! I have the same financial worries and cost as you. I can't leave work at 5 and finish for the day. I quite often go days on end with just a few hours sleep because bookings are like buses. There's none at all then everything comes in at once. I don't have the luxury of answering the office telephone and refusing a booking because it's during my lunch break. Ha ha ha many creatives will understand when I say what's lunch or what break!? Of course if I'm ill that's a really tough one, no sick pay. Best just hope it's a 24hr bug and you can get a fellow artist to cover. The last thing you want is to let a client down. In any business your name and your word is everything!
Then there's exposure,
"Oh but it's for charity and there will be lots of people there who will see your work and how great you are!"
Great we need charities for a multitude of reasons and I truly wish I could give to them all. However if I don't get paid I will end up a charity case myself, homeless and without food. It is with a heavy heart I decline yet another charity request or pray I've not upset another friend expecting my services for free. If you are confident there are that many people coming to your event you won't mind paying me the going rate and charging your customers to recoup your fees and make some profit? Unfortunately I can't pay my bills with exposure. If I could turn exposure into cash i'd be a millionaire. Surely that makes sense doesn't it?
So next time you pick up that phone or start to type wanting to book that person you know who is great at their job and would be just perfect for your party or event, please think about my opening paragraph. How would you feel? What would your response be?
I hope I've not caused any personal offence to you, my reader. That was not my intent. I intended only to open your eyes a bit to the daily struggles us self employed creatives experience. I thank you for taking the time reading this and wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous day.
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It's nothing short of a damned cheek. Charities are all very well, but why do people expect those of us who earn next to nothing to contribute? And then get nasty when we say we can't. Friends especially should know better.
I used to help out a lot of friends but found people took the mickey so now everyone is treated the same as any other customer with booking contract, retainers fees etc so we all know where we stand. It saves any animosity in the long run.