The value of my time

What is the value of my time? If I was working in retail, I might perhaps earn £8.50 an hour, though it’s quite a while since I did, so I may have my rates wrong. If I were a typist in an office, a bit more, if I were a junior partner in a legal firm, a bit more still. As an author? Pause for embarrassed silence.

But why? We spend years investing in our books, to say nothing of the cost of producing a product which has all its dots and commas in the right place. That time is valuable, and – as I think I many have mentioned – is not coming back to us.

We can’t really value our worth by the accumulation of our possessions, so what is left to us is the space and hope we call time. Our most precious asset. So, when someone asks me to help with a project, it is worth pausing to check, “How long is this going to take me? Will I enjoy it? Do I get any pleasure out of doing this, any pleasure for its own sake?”

If the answer is no – and I have no perceived choice – just get that ask done quickly and then whizz off out of there asap; and if the answer is no, not one whit, of course not, then I’d be better to find some polite way of saying so and getting back to what I prefer doing.

But conversely, just because we love writing, does that mean we should not expect to get paid for it? Or receive the cover price for a book we have authored – from which we will have deduct the outlays – or to get recognition for the time and effort of carting books around, laying them out so carefully so they don’t get spoiled, signing them and offering them for sale?

In an ideal world, we would all be supported for being creative, but until that time comes, it’s worth pausing to ask ourselves how much we value our time, and whether, if push comes to shove, we are comfortable advocating for ourselves, so that we value what we do. After all, if we can get back some of the value of what we do, that will enable us to keep doing what we value.

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