Money should never be a surprise.
Thinking about money differently can ease some of the anxieties around work, what we’re worth and why we’re paid what we are. Working out the flow that money takes to get to you is often time well spent.
I find this one really helpful when it comes to difficult clients. When they’re messing me around, being a bit unreasonable or otherwise wasting my time, I try to work out: who’s paying them? Is it their client? Who’s paying their client? Why is the fee and timescale what it is? Could things be different?
And it’s not just clients — thinking about earned money in almost any context becomes more interesting and less stressful when we stop looking at it as a series of unexpected lottery wins.
Learning is the real investment
In my opinion at least, a lot of our anxieties about money arise from a self-perpetuating void in our understanding. It’s not our fault; in the creative fields, especially, there don’t seem to be any fixed, sensible rules about money. When we’re paid £85 for a job one day and £600 for an identical job the next, we can only conclude the logic of whimsy applies (and being overpaid is almost as anxiety-inducing as being underpaid, when everyone around you is complaining there’s not enough money to go around.)
When you’re doing something you enjoy and feel competent at, some days any payment at all feels like a pleasant bonus. But the erratic pay scales in the arts and culture sector are enough to make anyone paranoid. It’s like having a parent who gives 10p pocket money one week and £10 the next. Incidentally, for some great research and observations on pay and the arts, I recommend Lisa Maltby’s work into illustration pricing and Alistair Gentry’s columns for the Artist Newsletter.
We need to stop seeing money as a prize, or a surprise. Those in non-creative jobs have a better instinct for this than those of us who have been trained on a kind of random payment fruit machine. It’s amazing to me how artists are interested in everything – except the economy. There is a flow of money through the world, it’s technical and emotional and rather elegant, and there are ways of understanding it.
Two options for you, today.
- Think seriously about your attitude to money and earning. Do you really want to make more money? Are you grateful for anything that comes your way that you’ll take it, or are you able to hold out?
2. Try to understand the global monetary system! OK, bit of a biggie, but it’s worth it – you’re in it! I always start with Ray Dalio. There are lots of videos on YouTube of him describing the economy as a machine – try this one if you have half an hour. If you only have one minute, the OU has a good one, too.
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