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The Value of You

Can you afford to work for free?

I get paid $25 to write my column. I used to get paid $50 to write my column. And, when I first started I got $100 (unheard of) to write my column. And, telling you this may very well lead to this being my last column.

But, for those of you who have been regular followers of mine for the past year-and-a-half, you will understand that I have to write from my heart. Write what I know. Write honestly and as uncensored as possible, even if it means I'm making myself vulnerable to hate mail, angry comments, or, worse—the end of my column.

Now, I am well aware that most columnists, bloggers, etc. get paid nothing for their hard work. ZIP. I suppose just seeing your words in print on the Internet is payment in itself, and so the fact that I've received any money at all for my column is something I should be grateful for.

And I am.

But, why shouldn't people be paid for their work? Why should it be that we say "That's okay, I'll do it for nothing even though I'm putting in time, energy, thought, personal stories, pictures, videos, etc. I'm drawing readers and traffic to your site and sharing my links on Facebook and Twitter. But, hey, there is someone else who will do it for no money so I will do it. Thank you for this opportunity."

Really? Does that make sense? It just doesn't seem fair. And, yes, I know, life isn't fair.

I never liked that saying. It always felt like a way to sit and do nothing.

Now, for me, the truth is I'm extremely blessed to have a job today that pays me so I am not dependent on my column to put food on the table. However, when I started writing for Patch and only up until to six months ago—Studio City Mom was my only source of income. That's right—ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME.

No matter how much I was pounding the pavement, selling what I could, and putting it out there to everyone that I needed a job—my Patch paycheck was the only money I knew I had coming in.

Patch helped put gas in my car, food on the table and a grain of self esteem in my soul. Patch paid it's writers when so many other sites did not. And it helped me feel good about what I was doing.

Growing up I watched my mother volunteer for everything. Give of her time and talent and never receive a paycheck. As a result we were broke and she was often in a depression. Always worrying about how to keep us from losing the house, car, and just about everything else.

I used to ask her, "Mom, why aren't you getting paid to direct that show? Why aren't you getting paid to teach that class? Why aren't you getting paid for your time?"

She would sigh and say, "They asked if I'd do it for free and I said yes. If I don't they'll just get someone else and it's better than doing nothing."

If that were true than why was she in fetal postion nearly every night?

My belief is everyone should get paid for their time and work. Whatever it is. We need to take care of each other. Getting paid for your talent, your energy, your very being not only helps you financially—it helps you mentally and emotionally.

I know that when I am asked to do something for free (usually by someone who has three houses, a garage of luxury cars and flies 1st class) I feel depressed. But desperation and fear of not being wanted at all has led me to do many things for free. And I've ALWAYS regretted it.

Now, this isn't to say I don't believe in volunteering, donating or doing charity work. Not at all. I'm all about being of service and giving back—but one can do so much more of that if their own personal life is in order.

I once heard a very spiritual man say that the best way to be of service to man is if you've made your riches first. You can do greater things for humanity if you're not living in fear, depression and despair.

I want to teach my daughter to value herself. Her art, her creativity, her wisdom... her existence.

She and her girlfriend once set up a lemonade stand. They made batches of lemonade and cookies and worked their tails off in the hot sun for hours. They made good money and when they were done they said they were going to give all the money to charity.

I looked at them, both wiping sweat off their cheeks and sipping the last bits of lemonade, and said, "You worked hard. Pay yourselves first. You earned it. Once you pay yourself we'll send the rest to charity."

They beamed. The thought never occurred to them. They each took a small portion of the money and put the rest in the charity jar.

As we cleaned up I heard them talking to each other:

"What should we do with our portion?"

There was a long pause, then,

"I know! We can use the money we paid ourselves with to buy more supplies and do another lemonade stand next week and give a portion again to charity."

High-fives all around.

We're all worth something. Let's not forget that.

Cathy Flynn February 02, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Susan, I have been enjoying your column every Monday since I discovered it a year ago. I can really relate to your stories of motherhood and struggling to pay the bills. It's also how I found Patch in the first place (I googled something and you came up). Your contributions to Patch have been a real inspiration for me to join. I've been contributing stories for Patch since February about events in Valley Village, and I started Very VERY busy mom when they opened up to bloggers in May. I've never received a dime from Patch, which doesn't bother me so much since I have a day job as the dialogue editor for "Once Upon a Time." However, my goal in my articles is to get the word out about community events, mostly for Colfax Charter Elementary School and Neighborhood Council Valley Village. I never really followed blogs before Patch invited me to start my own, and I have to tell you, I'm having a blast! Although I don't get paid, my goal in my blog is to entertain and make people laugh. It inspired me to start my own blog in September at veryVERYbusymom.com, and I've already had 5,684 hits (as of today). Even though your Patch pay keeps going down, and you definitely deserve more (especially since you're getting paid as a real bonafide writer on "Two and a half Men") I hope you continue to write your column, purely because you have a lot of regular readers who will miss your weekly dose of humor and honesty. Maybe you can get a tax break for your nearly nonprofit status.
Cathy Flynn February 02, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Geez, that comment was long. Sorry.
Jan Leasure February 02, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Susan; I hope you are able to continue. Remember, most of us writers don't make decent money until it is "Posthumously" so I guess it is never too late? Keep your dead-on kernals popping! -Jan Leasure, www.jan-leasure.com
Susan McMartin February 02, 2012 at 11:29 PM
thanks, cathy! i love writing my column and have no plans to stop any time soon. however, i do think that it's okay to have fun AND get paid too. i'm glad we both have day jobs that make it possible for us to continue our columns/blogs but imagine if we didn't? you're a busy mom (as you pointed out) and, in my opinion, deserve to get paid for what you contribute to patch or anywhere else. your articles about community events are helping generate business/income for those events -- well, why shouldn't you be compensated too? my point in all this is that if people got paid for their time and energy and talent there might be a little less fear, stress and despair in the world and bit more joy and abundance. thanks again, cathy, for being such a loyal reader and sharing your thoughts!
Susan McMartin February 02, 2012 at 11:31 PM
thanks, jan! love the 'dead-on kernals popping' image!!

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