This is the advice that is given to folks trying to find their passion and their calling. The search usually prompts the advised to take inventory of their activities and hobbies, read a few self-help books, or even attend workshops and talks about find their calling.

Figuring out what you truly love is amazing. Deciding you will do that full-time is, in many cases, a great leap. Making a living…well that’s where ish gets tough. For musicians, artist, freelancers, and entrepreneurs I know, myself included, the transition from dreamer to business person is quite difficult.

Deciding rates for services, figuring out how much should be done for “exposure,” and not starving are far from easy. Starting out you may not be confident enough in your abilities to ask for a lot of money, hell even the going rate. Then there is the whole “bad economy” thing, so you try to understand that clients, customers, etc. don’t really have it in their budget to pay you. There’s also the fear of coming off as a “diva” or “doing too much”, when really you just want to pay Sallie and not have to live off Ramen. And even if you’ve gotten over all of those issues, this is what you love, what you’d do for free, what you have done for free, and in some capacity what you still do for free…how do you put a price tag on what you love?

When I quit my job in July, I didn’t actually think about these things. But now I’m trying to move out and uhh ish just got real. Last week while plotting out my expenses and deciding exactly how much I would need to make in order to have a certain lifestyle, I started feeling overwhelmed. I hit up my homie Michele and gave quite the motivation gchat lecture.

“It’s not for me, it’s for my grandbabies. That’s what keeps me motivated. I want them to have it easier, to be able to come to NY and have a place to stay…It’s not personal. Everyone else is getting paid, why not us? Just because I would do it for free, I’m not. I have a legacy to build and working for free won’t get me there.”

The legacy piece put it all in perspective. Yes, I have to pay dues and build, but I can’t lose the big picture.

My prices just went up.

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  • African Mami

    I hate the notion of offering my services for free. If you are in need of free services, google that shit or web md it! The only time I will offer free services is when I am mentoring another, or I am guaranteed of paid referrals.

  • Good one Niema. I needed it…

  • kesha

    Even attorney’s are being asked to work volunteer and work for experience (a.k.a. work for free.) After doing it for a couple months, I put my foot down and said enough is enough. I can’t eat experience.

    • African Mami

      @Kesha,

      Good for you putting your foot down! Leave alone eating, the damn bills need to be paid. I often wonder why companies think it is A-Okay for interns to help them out without any form of compensation. They happily post about being part of the 500Forbes list and what do you know, $0 compensation. Urrgh!

  • M

    I’ve had situations where CLOSE friends just automatically think because we’re cool that I’m their personal graphic designer. Suddenly they’re inspired to have a personalised invite designed for thee most miniscule events and just assume it’s for free. “Hey, can ya whip up a card for my hamster’s B-day?” And never mention money. I had to make it clear that althought I love them I’m trying to make this a profession and would like to be treated as such. I mean I can’t show up at their jobs and get free financial advise, now can I. I’ve also had less intimite friends bring up the pricing right off the bat and even say they don’t need the friend discount. It would seem that one is more prone to support you than the other. Strange.

    • @AfricanMami, LOL: Google that ish or WebMD it! Ultimately, it comes down to: 1.Your bills getting paid. 2. Your business self worth. I live in Atlanta where, it seems, everybody and their Momma got a hustle.

      Guess what? I got one, too, and it doesn’t involve taking advantage of people, working for free, or underpaying someone — which is a lot of what I came across when I first moved here 5 years ago. Everybody wanted me to work for ‘exposure’ and that ish don’t work; people don’t truly respect people who work for free, unless it’s a college situation where it’s assumed that students do this to get experience.

      But if you’re a professional? Don’t do it. Do a few pro-bono projects if you don’t have any experience… and that’s it! And the pro-bono project should be from a non-profit that’s registered so you can write it off your business taxes.