Creatively Conscious,  Freelance Life,  The Artist Boat,  White Space for Creativity

Money Talks – Part One – what it’s really like to be self-employed in the cultural sector…

Money Talks – Your time is your gift…your energy to exchange.

Working for yourself takes a real belief in structure, determination and a whole heap of kindness reflected back in abundance. 

Being self employed means money isn’t always the payment for work.   

Sometimes it’s time, experience (wonderful at that), knowledge, friendship, family and freedom…

The time you spend working is down to you – nobody is clocking you in and out each day, your energy is your own.

I get asked a lot about being self employed (I have been for over 11 years) and how it works in real life.

I’ve had this post in drafts for months… inspired by a year of REALLY sharpening my awareness on what giving my time and managing my energy means.  It’s become a little conversation with myself, an interview of sorts – I hope it’s useful to you and I’d love to hear what you think…

1. So what’s work and what’s not and what do you get paid for?

Work in the typical 9-5 sense, is usually in exchange for money… but sometimes it’s not.  There are two reasons for this…  

  1. Focussed self development is super important to me and I believe to develop we have to build on our knowledge and expertise.  It also helps me to be ambitious, keep our finger on the pulse and more.  I take this time within my working week and pay for coaches and courses too. 
  2. You speculate to accumulate – I don’t think anything of paying the £15 – £100 train fair to meet colleagues in Newcastle, Edinburgh or London because it’s my choice to live in Northumberland.   I don’t have holiday pay but I did get statutory maternity pay when I had my little boy.  So some days I work but no one pays that wage. 

Each day can be a classic energy exchange… I do a what I consider to be a ‘days’ work I get paid money (a fee). 

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We pay the family bills and invest some into our tax bill fund, self development and our passions. 

Tasks come and go, work gets done, stuff happens, repeat. 

I work for between 3-10 clients at a time…. some are cultural organisations, some are charities, some are individual artists.  I wouldn’t work with any more than 10 but I’m most comfortable with 4 or 5.

2. Sounds simple enough… so how do you end up working for free?

As I’ve mentioned, if I take on self development tasks or do training I don’t get paid for those.   If you’re employed, an employer usually pays for your training and time for this area of your progression.

‘Gifts’ of my time are things like…

if I read drafts of funding proposals for a potential client, email potential clients, pitch for work, write invoices, develop my website, write social media updates, work out expenses, attend interviews, meetings, supply contacts and advice on how best to work with them, suggest ideas or take a phone call to someone I don’t work for.

In the universal karma of the cultural sector this ‘investment’ usually pays me back with work somewhere along the line… 

3. How much time is that?

On average… 30mins – 1.5hour each week so 52 hours a year so around 6.5+ days per year.

It was helpful (and probably crucial in my time of life/ career) for me to set up my company ‘Creatively Conscious’ last year to decide how I wanted to do my work under it’s umbrella. 

Being a ‘business owner’ alongside being ‘a freelancer’ gave me opportunity to re-frame my values after a particularly tricky time feeling very undervalued by a client and working for less than my worth.  So although I’m a lovely person I’m also a business owner and my business needs to pay me –  I think much more like that these days that I ever did.  (Hello self worth)   

Creative ideas, time and vision are yours to give.  You can ask to be paid for it, you can give it for free but my advice whatever you do is to value it as your gift to give…

4. So what on earth do you charge and does it depend who is asking?

Have a look at this.  (if your a writer or a photographer),

This one is a guide for freelance visual artists…

Neither of these fit what I do…it’s a bit of a made up world at times.  Not many artists I know work for these rates… mostly we all work for between £200 – £250 per day. 

In terms of who is asking – yes it does depend… if I’ve worked for the company before I’m likely to honour a lower daily rate, if I haven’t I need to manage risk there… I also need to factor in travel time and how long the contract is. 

5. So what’s a day like?

On a typical working day, I might work at home, meet someone centrally or in an office or cultural venue but the decision is often lead by how I’ve designed my week and who I am working for when.

I tend to charge a standard daily rate, claim mileage on top of that either through my company or charged directly to the client and I never expect a free lunch. (Although it’s always nice – Haha)  

6. How do you stay motivated and manage your time, aren’t you just doing house things when you work at home?

I’ve always been really good at this but there are always lessons along the way.

Sometimes I take too much on driven by wanting to pay for something (like home improvements or to spend more time with L in the holidays).

Sometimes life throws a curve ball and I’m not motivated because I have to process things that have happened, sometimes the little one is sick and I just give myself that time or we balance it between us and catch up later.

Check out this blog for some tips on how I manage my time…

I never pick up toys etc when I’m working or do laundry, I wait until I fancy a tea break for that… I would loose 30mins of my morning by getting everything straight before I started work… 

 

I hope this was a helpful read to anyone out there in the self employed world of thinking of joining us – come on in it’s GREAT!

Claire x

PS – If you struggle to put your own needs first or have forgotten what they might even be you can TOTALLY re-design your own life on your terms!  Make space for family, creativity, personal projects – whatever you like – download my Freedom planning toolkit. 

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