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Working for Free [43011]

By Business

It never fails, if you are in this business – as a performer or writer– you are going to be asked to work for free.  Some people just don’t feel comedy is a profession…or at least not one they should have to pay for.  “You spread laughter, there should be no fee involved in that.”  Of course, lawyers are fighting for justice, shouldn’t that be free?  Doctors are healing the sick and wounded, shouldn’t that be for free?  I guess not.  I worked with one well-known writer who had this response, “The day I can walk into to Vons and walk out with a cart load of groceries free is the day I’ll start working for nothing.”  His point was well made, even comedy writers have to feed their families.

            It always amazes me as soon as someone finds out you are in comedy, they can think of a million jobs they want you to do, but none are for money.  As soon as you mention money, their attitude changes a little bit.

            I recently had someone call me –someone I haven’t talked to in a couple of years.  Her husband had written a book and she wanted me to punch it up a bit and send it out to publishers.  I told her I won’t send it out to publishers because that wasn’t my job, but my fee for punching up the book would be x amount of dollars.  She got mad; “I can’t believe you don’t just want to read it for fun.”  I may have gotten a little cranky when I replied, “No, for fun I’m going to be painting my house.  So, if you guys want to do that for me, then I’ll read the book, just for fun.”   She hung up the phone…and I probably won’t hear from her for another couple of years.

            But it is going to happen.  People will ask and sometimes working for free is not a bad thing.  Yes, that was from the same person who moaned and groaned just a few short sentences ago.  So how do you know when to work for

free and when not to?  Let’s see if we can help with that.

            When opportunity presents itself, do a little research and some soul-searching.  Okay, and be a little selfish.  Ask yourself, what will I get out of this?

Sometimes the answer will simply be a warm feeling.  There are organizations that are near and dear to our hearts and when they ask us for something, even if they are paying, we don’t want the money.  Knowing that we are helping a cause we believe in is enough.

            Some comedians will work a club for free to show off their stuff.  Once the club realizes how good they are, they can start collecting the paycheck.  Another reason is to get the stage time.  There is a coffee house around here that has a comedy night.  No one is paid, but it’s a chance to perform in front of a live audience.

            If you ask yourself, what will I get from this and the answer is nothing, then you might want to pass it up.  With the book story I mentioned earlier, the trade-off wasn’t there.  If he sold the book, he wasn’t going to come back and remember me.  It would have taken a big chunk of my time and to me it wasn’t worth it.  But there are times when you may want to consider writing for free.  For example, you may have a book that you want edited.  So, you agree to trade manuscripts.  Or it may be a comedian who is just starting to get paying gigs.  If you write for him or her now and do a great job, he or she may consider you when they make the big time.  This one is a gamble, and only you can tell if it is one worth taking.

            You also may want to take on the challenge free of charge for the exposure.  Maybe it is for a new group of people you would like to work for.  Or it may be a new form of comedy…like giving a humorous talk, or speech. 

Working for free is one way to test your material and practice this new craft.

Once, you agree to do a gig for free, then what do you do?  The gut reaction is to go in, get it over and done with.  You don’t do anything extra or really put much energy into it.  After all, you’re not getting paid why should they get your best stuff.  They should get your best stuff simply because you should be giving your best every time you step on stage and every time you submit your written work.  If you are working at an event, they aren’t going to introduce you by saying, “Here’s John, hey we’re not paying him so don’t expect much.”  Or give you a written byline that says, “If you liked this article, you should read some of the stuff she actually got paid for.” 

The audience will never know you are working for free.  And why is that important?  Because you don’t know who is in the audience.  On numerous occasions I have heard about people who didn’t want to do a gig or assignment because they weren’t getting paid.  They did the job and were pleased they did because it resulted in many paying gigs.  I also have my own personal experiences to back it up.

When you agree to work for free, try to find a way to avoid the negative feelings that go along with it.  We all have them, but try to push them aside.  Think of ways to make the job work for you.  Ask the person in charge if it will be possible for you to sell books, CDs, T-shirts, or whatever it is you have to offer.  We have given talks to writer’s club where we waive the fee if they will allow us to sell books.  The book sales more than made up for the small amount they were able to offer.

            Even if you don’t have merchandise to sell, don’t despair.  Try and get something else.  Ask if you can distribute your business card or have a special flyer made with how people can contact you.  We once did an event that was

being held at a museum and asked if it would be possible to get tickets to come back and go through the museum.  The answer was yes.

On top of that, ask for a letter of recommendation.  This is especially important if you are venturing into a new field.  This letter can help you land paying jobs in the future.

            It’s also a good idea to space out the number of free jobs you do.  Even if all the reasons for doing it are right, you still have the rent to pay, gas for the car, school for kids, food for the dog, etc. etc. etc.  So consider that when the request is presented.  You certainly don’t want to work for a month for no pay. 

            I also feel I should mention, don’t work repeatedly for free for the same person or group if you aren’t getting anything out of it.  Again, we all have our causes that no matter how often they ask or what they ask, we will do it, and that’s okay.  That’s what makes us good human beings.  But there are people and organizations that will continually “use” you, if you allow them to.  We worked with one professional group that was like that.  They promised us all these great returns that never happened.  According to them, we were the best, they loved us.  Finally, when they called and asked us to do something again, we replied, “Sure, here’s what we normally get paid.”  They never called back.  Apparently, we weren’t the best and they didn’t really love us, we were just cheap. 

            If you do an event, and you leave feeling used, and the paybacks aren’t happening, then don’t go back.  “No, thank you” is a perfectly acceptable phrase.

            So, remember these little steps when you are asked to work for free…and you will be.  Turn it into a positive, find a way to make it productive and profitable for you, and most importantly give it your all.  Remember payoffs are not always immediate.

Freelance-Added Income [43024]

By Business

As freelancers while we chip away at building a career, we sometimes have to think outside the box to generate income. We’re growing but we haven’t reached the level we need to be at. We’re making money but not enough to replace that fulltime job we either left or want to leave.

So, what do you do to bring in some extra bucks? Here are some suggestions. It’s important to note that I’m not recommending or advocating that you do any of these. I’m merely giving you the options to investigate.

Part Time Job: This is an obvious solution and doesn’t require thinking too far out of the box but it’s still an option. A part time job may give you just enough financial freedom to get you over the hump. Of course, the drawback is that you may not have the flexibility you need or want. Also, the hourly rate is probably going to be significantly less than what you are used to. You’ll have to evaluate and determine if the time invested is worth it. Another option that falls under part time work status is seasonal work. Retail stores and consumer service businesses will take on extra help during their peak times. This includes holidays, tax season, and inventory. Take advantage of those times and pocket a little extra money.

Temp Work: Consider registering with a temp agency. There are large national companies as well as small private offices that utilize various skills. The nice part about temp work is that you can pick and choose the jobs you want to do. If you only want to work for a week at a time, you can do that. If you are willing to do a longer tenure at a company, that’s an option. You may not have the flexibility during the workday to set your hours, but you have the freedom to say yes or no to a specific job.

Rent a Room: If you own your home—okay, even if you don’t—you can consider renting out a room. This can be done long-term or short-term. Renting out short-term has gotten a lot easier with the birth of such sites as AirBnb. You can turn your home in to a pseudo hotel and collect a nice piece of change for it.

            You determine how long you want to rent it for, how many people you want in your home, and the frequency that it is available. The websites do most of the work for you and of course they take a fee. Even so depending on where you live and the amenities available you can collect a nice monthly income by renting a room out by the night.

            If short-term is too much work or the idea of having people come and go from your house doesn’t appeal to you, you can rent out a room to a friend or acquaintance for a longer period of time.

            I do have to offer some cautions on this recommendation. One is to be sure to vet the people who will be staying in your unit. You want to make sure that you will get paid and that this person will leave your home in the same condition they found it in. That is one of the advantages to a professional site, they do a lot of the leg work for you.

            If you live in an HOA be sure to check your governing documents like the Rules & Regulations and CC&Rs. Many associations don’t allow rental of a unit for a short duration of time. This will basically exclude you from using sites like AirBnb. Some will require you to notify and pay the association every time you rent the unit. This can get expensive and will eat up a lot of your profits. And many HOAs are making it tougher to rent out your unit long-term. Make sure you follow the rules of your community so that the money you make doesn’t go towards paying fines.

Sell on Ebay: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure is the motto behind this suggestion. You can find almost anything for sale online.

I’ve done this quite a bit and I have to be honest—it used to be much more fun and profitable. I have found that the fees Ebay charges keep increasing and if you aren’t exactly aware you could end up owing money on every item you sell.

            Even so, I know people who have made a very nice career for themselves finding items at local garage sales or other websites and then selling them on Ebay.

            This is especially true if you can find a niche or specialty items to sell. I work with a man who is a cyclist enthusiast. He loves bikes and he knows a lot about them. He began buying bikes and then taking them apart to sell for parts. He is so well-versed in what he does that he was able to grow his Ebay sales and made it his full-time job.

            If this interests you, there are other services other than Ebay. There are places that will purchase items from you or sell them on consignment. Declutter will purchase books and technology items. Thredup will sell your new clothing. There are many other sites. You just have to find them and figure out which one will work best for you.

If you have special skills there are sites like Etsy that will sell your handmade items. This is another avenue that may be able to provide you with an extra income.

Drive Uber/Lyft/Door /Dash: Many comedians have taken advantage of this option. You work when you want to and for as long as you want to. Unfortunately, at this time, this opportunity is changing. It’s unclear how all the changes will unfold. Many of the perks that make this work appealing to freelancers may be disappearing. It is an option, though and worth keeping in mind.

Return Scooters and Shopping Carts: You’ve noticed those random shopping carts just sitting out in the streets? If you own a pickup truck you can make a little extra moola. There are companies that will pay people to return the shopping carts to its rightful store. You do have to be registered with a company to avoid being the one accused of stealing carts. You also have to make sure the carts belong to a store that participates in this se rvice. 

In cities, the scooters for hire are popping up everywhere and so are their scooters. These are the scooters where you pay and take a scooter and then leave it on the street when you’re done. The companies are paying to retrieve them and return them to their stations. Comedians are earning extra bucks after a night at the comedy clubs.

Make Up Your Own Job: If you left your day job, there’s a good chance that your company is missing you. I worked for a management company. When I left, I took my skill to write letters. I spoke with the VP of the company and offered to continue to write letters for them on a freelance basis. They email me the details for the letters, and I take it from there. I promise them a quick turnaround. This provided them with a service that they needed, and it rewarded me with a nice steady income. I also was able to expand and provide this service to a few other companies.

            The point is that this job didn’t exist. It was through my conversations with the VP that I was able to create this opportunity. When you leave a job, you take the skills you developed. Offer those skills back to your company or even their competitors and become an independent contractor or a consultant.

            The perfect freelance job for you may not currently exist. Explore this option and see if you can create your own perfect opportunity that allows you to keep the money coming in and pursue your comedy career.

These are only a few ideas. There are many, many more out there. The point is, though, if you are a freelancer you may need to look for money outside of the normal job opportunities. Don’t be afraid to try something different. The goal is to have an income that allows you to pursue your comedy writing or performing career.

Our next article in this series will be on passive income.