By B. Lynn Goodwin.
More than one book in the Bible tells us, “A workman is worthy of his hire.”
I heartily agree, though I know the process is not always linear. In addition to a workman, a woman, a teenager, a multi-tasker, a mom, a dad, a writer and many more workers are all worthy of their hire, yet people have been known to donate our skills for appreciation or recognition instead of cash. Anyone who contributes constructively to the world is worthy of pay.
In this day and age that pay often comes in the form of validation. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work since I stopped teaching in the public school system. I do it because I believe in the causes I work for, whether they’re adult literacy, scholarships, or honoring writers. I do it for friendship, peer connections, and appreciation. I do it because some of the best publishing companies in the country send me books for review and thank me when those reviews appear.
Occasionally someone still tries to guilt me into giving away my editing or proofreading services. The writer says she’s writing a really important story that needs to be told and should be an exception. Her urgency and desperation bleed through onto the screen. She needs writing help, a listener, a best friend, and someone to validate her experience. Sometimes her neediness overwhelms me.
My sympathies used to kick in, and I used to forget that people value what they pay for. I’m not alone. All too often women undervalue themselves. It’s easy to do. We’re the givers, the nurturers, but there’s nothing inspiring about feeling used.
Today when this happens, I offer choices. Writers can find volunteer editors in critique groups. If they want professional help, they should expect to pay for it. I remind myself that I provide something they cannot do for themselves. I give them options, advice, and perspective, but I limit myself to an hour’s free sample. I enjoy expecting to be paid.
There’s one more option, though, in this world where cash is scarce. There’s barter.
That’s a viable compromise in a world where everyone’s short of cash, as long as we’re not getting the short end of the deal. Here’s a list of suggestions for getting paid in appreciation when you want to do a job and no cash is available:
- Trade responsibilities.
- Trade talents.
- Trade objects you might once have put on the market in a garage sale.
- Set boundaries for yourself and expectations for others.
- When you run out of either time or motivation, say no.
Have confidence in the worth of what you do. A worker is worthy of his hire, whatever that means in this day and age. If you feel used, it will lead you into the slippery slope of resentment, and no one is comfortable hanging out there.
If you turn your attitude around, though, you’ll find that choosing to volunteer, rather than feeling coerced, pays off. Validation can be every bit as inspiring as a pay check, and sometimes the work you do for “free” leads to referrals which lead to paying jobs. Now that’s a win-win.
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When are you tempted to provide your professional services at no charge? How do you help people who cannot pay? This issue came up again yesterday. I need to hear how others handle this.
Sometimes, even professionals–ones who I work for under the guidelines of a contract–ask me to add on a few things. They don’t see it as a freebie, but that’s just what it is. Experiencing that so many times over the years, I’m careful to outline the boundaries of what I’ll do from a very early stage in any project. That way, hopefully, no one gets disappointed. Like most things, though, sometimes these things work and sometimes they don’t. Either way, I learn something for future negotiations.
Thanks, Dr. Mike. My husband is an electrical contractor, and he calls these add-ons “change orders. I find that I want to help and I want to be generous, but I don’t want to shortchange myself, so I work on boundaries all the time. Like you, I’m always learning a better way to do things. Thanks for showing me how you handle the problem.