During a recent presentation to college students about entrepreneurship in the arts, I asked the class what they thought a freelance writer did with her time all day. Their guesses included “thinking about character development” and “writing,” and bless their hearts, that would be amazing. But as any freelance writer can attest, the business of pitching stories, research, contacting sources, waiting for sources to call back and interviewing sources takes up the bulk of one’s life. So much, in fact, that I often (or, rather, daily) find myself with this problem: I feel so accomplished by the time I finally hang up the phone after an interview call, that I’m all, “Done! I’m finished! Let’s go fishing or whatever!”
Before becoming self-employed, it never occurred to me to assign a dollar value to my time. I suppose that was probably to the advantage of my employers. When self-employed, however, it’s crucial. One you’re past the I’ll-take-every-assignment-that-comes-my-way-oh-god-please-don’t-let-me-starve phase, you absolutely have to know what your time is worth to assess whether an assignment is worth taking, which gigs have priority over others and which jobs (or clients) are simply sucking up too much of your time.
That said, there are traps one can become ensnared in after growing comfortable with the monetary value of one’s time.
You can undervalue the jobs that take longer and pay less, but are always there. Big paying jobs often come and go. Part of the monetary value of the hours spent on the “regular stuff” is made up for by not having to search out new work.
It’s easy to begin counting every hour of your life in monetary terms. Is going to the movies really worth it? Sitting there and losing money for two hours? Is taking a three-day weekend totally insane? If you add money lost per hour to the cost of getting away, you will literally never leave your house. And especially when you work from home, you really need leave your house sometimes.
Monetizing time overvalues efficiency and undervalues things like connecting with people in person, careful editing, making time to think creatively and exploring new ideas.
Again, not to get all contradictory or anything, but knowing the monetary value of your time is an absolute must. Knowing which hours to measure and why, however, is just as important.
Here I am, eight days out from writing a post about clichés, and all I feel like writing area mediative thoughts on the changing of the seasons. Sorry! I can’t help it. For the very first time that I can recall, I am super excited for fall. I walked into a Walgreens today, saw a sign for flu shots, and my reflexive thought was, “Awesome! I want one!”
I love my iPhone. So much. But when cell phones first exploded, I used to ridicule the very idea of having internet on a phone. What a silly idea. (Remember when just pushing “up” on your flip-phone’s keypad would start connecting you, and would cost you, like $5, even if you undid it immediately? Grr!)
When the Kindle first emerged, I was angry – actual, hot, don’t-talk-to-me angry. I had wanted to write a book my entire life. This was going to ruin everything. All I’d be able to do now is write a stupid digital file. Today, if you see me leaving the house without my iPad, there’s a good chance my house is on fire.