There is a saying that goes "If you're good at something don't do it for free."
I recently stumbled upon a letter by W.E.B. Du Bois saying "You can't afford me" in the most polite way I've ever heard in my life. Too many times are artist not properly compensated for their work and too many times do we feel the need to take whatever crumbs we can get because we don't know where the next check will come. When Du Bois said "I regret to say that the honorarium which you offer is simply impossible." the sky parted, shined a light on my Twitter feed, and at that moment I realized I wasn't alone in a world that under values art.
1. Set your rate
When you work a job, you are compensated for your time and your energy. As an artist, your art is your job, or more so a business that provides services. To provide the services, you as the artist, must put in time and energy and be compensated for it. Write down the services you provide, give each service a set price calculated by the time and energy it would take to execute it, and stick to your rate! Don't think about if it's too high or that no one can afford it. Know your worth and walk into your purpose. How much money will it take for you leave your house? Once you know that you'll be on the right path.
As a performing artist an OG once told me "My rate is $$ because if I tell my wife and kids I'll be gone for 2 weeks and don't come back with something to show for it they won't let me back in the house."
2. Add taxes
If you're an artist running your own business that means you're probably handing out W9's left and right. Which also means you should be adding tax to your prices. Let's say you charge $1000. When you get paid you should subtract $350 for taxes. The other $650 gets split between your travel fund, investments, play money, etc. The workaround is to send the invoice in as $1000 + 35% tax. Now you won't end up like Wesley Snipes.
3. Learn to say "No"
When you work for yourself there are moments where you become anxious about taking every opportunity that comes your way out of fear of never working again. So much so that you'll take on a job for less than you're worth just to throw something at the expenses breathing down your neck. Your craft is your life, is your passion, is your hustle. Don't negotiate your rates down to a metro card and a slice of pizza out of fear. If they can't afford you, best believe someone else can. You just have to make sure those folks know how to find you.
There are other factors to take into consideration like market value, budgets, the economy, etc. You're going to have to negotiate at some point because that's just how the world works. There are things worth more than money that you can gain if you know what to ask for.
You teach people how to treat you. If you keep doing things for free or for the low or for the culture then that's exactly what everyone will expect from you. The next time you get that email or DM and someone and is asking you to do way too much for way too little, channel your inner Du Bois and hit em with the "I regret to say that the honorarium which you offer is simply impossible."
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