Don’t Sell Yourself Short: Time Is Money

As we’re so fond of saying around here, there’s an old saying. “Time is money.”

And it is. Time is definitely money. Time you spend doing other things, is time you could be spending making money. As we’ve discussed previously, self-employed people are generally the hardest workers, with the longest hoursThat doesn’t mean spend your every waking moment working. Far from it. But your time is valuable, no matter how you slice it. There’s another old saying, this one in Latin. “Quid pro quo.” This translates to “this for that” in English. You might know it by another name, the barter system. You do someone a favor, they do one for you in return. A trade, in other words.

This is all well and good, but quid pro quo doesn’t pay your bills. Doing favors for business associates, and the favors they do in return, can certainly help you on your way to bigger personal independent earnings, but there comes a time when you have to say “no, I’m sorry, but I need to be paid for this.” And this is completely fair. You are running a business after all, and as is true from the biggest of corporations to the smallest of start-ups, businesses need to make money.

Let me give you an example, which actually served as the inspiration for this post. One of our staff, and one of his personal staff are professional DJs (disc jockeys), or performers who are not in bands who play music for people in live settings via specialized equipment as opposed to guitars, drums, etc. They’ve been blessed with the opportunity to ply their trade for thousands of people across the globe. Suffice it to say, they are very good at what they do. But they’ve also diversified and put their other talents to work for them. Which is how they came to work here.

It is the second person, our staff member by proxy, who we’ll be talking about today. After twelve years of performing as a DJ, he started thinking about ways to give back to the community that has given him so much of his success. One of the ideas he came up with was to start taking on two or three protégés and giving classes several times a week, training a new generation to take his place when he eventually decides to retire from performing. Initially, he wanted to do it completely free of charge. As mentioned previously, as a way of giving back to the community that made him who he is today. A now former acquaintance of his convinced him this was a bad idea, for a number of reasons.

First of all, as was stated at the beginning of this article, his time is valuable. The hours he’d be spending each week for an as yet indeterminate period is time he could be pursuing other endeavors, of both the personal and professional variety. Also, he personally has twelve years of experience in this industry. That kind of experience, and the lessons learned as a result, is invaluable. It’s almost impossible to put a price on it. Which is a very good reason to put a price on it. Someone learning from him could avoid years of mistakes and pitfalls just by listening to what he has to say. Definitely something worth paying for.

Secondly, the specialized equipment I mentioned is expensive, and like anything else with moving parts, is prone to wear and tear. With repeat use, especially for hours every week on top of the time it generally gets used, its lifespan is shortened, which would eventually necessitate either expensive repair or even more expensive replacement. A complete set of DJ equipment costs thousands of dollars. With no income coming in from this endeavor, there’s nothing to offset that potential added expense. It would all be on him.  Suddenly having a $2000 piece of equipment kick the bucket from overuse and not having the money to replace it would be a very bad thing indeed.

And finally, monetization creates incentive for students to really give their all to succeed. Look at university students. They pay an insane amount of money to take classes. Now granted, some still slack off, because, well, they’re slackers. They’ll be in for a very rude awakening when their student loan comes due. But it’s safe to say that most are in class every day they possibly can be,  working their tails off to complete their courses and get good grades, because they paid so much money to be there. While the amount our example would be charging for classes wouldn’t be anywhere near university levels (which are way, way too high by anyone’s standards), but the fact that prospective students are paying in gives them that much more reason to really apply themselves and succeed. Otherwise, they’ve wasted their money. And nobody (especially those of you reading this) likes wasting money.

There really are scores of reasons why monetizing this idea was the smarter way to go over simply doing it for free, but as seems to be the case lately, this post is starting to get quite long. The point of all this, is that our pseudo-staffer intended to sell himself short, and do for free what he should have been charging for. Not even for profit either (although in your cases, profit should definitely be a factor), but just simple factors that he had never even considered that once explained to him, made him realize yes, this is something that people should be paying for.

So to all of you out there in self-employed land, look at our staffer-by-proxy. He had what basically amounted to a business (just like you). He was going to do it for free (like some of you will no doubt consider doing in a form of quid pro quo, to help out friends, or just because you are very, very nice). He looked at it from a different angle, realized he was both selling himself short and potentially setting himself up for financial harm, and decided monetization was the best way to proceed (as you all should).

So to all of you out there, don’t do as our staff-by-proxy almost did. Don’t sell yourselves short. Don’t give away your time and effort for free. Your time is valuable. Your work is valuable. It’s all right to cut a deal or do a favor now and then, as it may benefit you in the long run to do so, but otherwise, it’s a terrible business model and could potentially set you up for financial harm down the road.

Your time is money. Charge for it.

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