Posted by: nancykenny | March 2, 2010

The Value of Me

There have been a lot of blog posts lately on working for free. A nice examination of what working for free can mean from the Mission Paradox and a fantastic call-to-arms on the Culture of Free by Suzemuse (it also introduced me to Feedly for which I am incredibly grateful – now if they only made an app…) and how it’s got to change.

This, combined with my boss asking me how much I would charge for my social media work, got me thinking: How much am I worth?

This is a very difficult question for me to answer because I love what I do so much and there’s this false belief inside me that if I love my job and it’s easy for me to do, then it’s not work so how can I justify getting paid for it?

Crazy I know. This goes for both my acting work and my marketing work. For years I did community theatre, sometimes appearing in more than one play at the same time, because I love performing. I had to finally stop though. It no longer felt satisfying creatively, I didn’t feel like I was gaining any sort of meaningful experience, and it was taking up an awful lot of my time for no compensation whatsoever.

Now, before anyone slams me, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with community theatre; it served as a valuable training ground in which to get my feet wet. I’m just saying that I was at the point where I had to take a stand. To continue on my path, I had to say “I am a professional artist. I have studied my craft for many years, I have a wealth of experience and knowledge, and, yes, I’m actually good at what I do. And that? Deserves compensation.”

I don’t know if you can understand how hard that was for me to do. By deciding to take that route, I ended up doing a lot less shows. I am constantly filled with doubt and fears along the lines of “what the hell do I know? Who am I to ask for more?” But I had to stand firm. I had to believe in myself. Now, the only way I would do a show for free would be if a) it’s for some kind of fundraiser or cause I believe in, b) I was doing my own work (though that’s in the hopes of eventually getting paid), or c) I was doing a friend a favour.

So, having said all that, why is it so hard for me to take the same stand in my marketing work?

I want money. Heck, I actually NEED money. But I am really uncomfortable around money. I don’t like it and I wish I didn’t need it. Unfortunately, I have a mortgage to pay and a cat to feed and those thing just don’t take care of themselves (stupid cat should get a job already…).

For a while now, I’ve been trying to put myself out there as a marketing person for hire. That always gets me thinking of my favorite quote:

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

So this “trying” thing wasn’t exactly working out because I wasn’t doing anything. The thing is, I didn’t even know where to begin or how much I should charge for my services. Finally though, when asked by work to send them a list of responsibilities and a price quote, I had to do some research. I contacted the best arts marketing person I know and asked her advice.

To be perfectly frank, her response kind of floored me. You charge HOW MUCH? I got self-conscious. I can’t actually be expected to ask people for that, can I? Just to set up a Twitter account, a Facebook page… I mean, it’s so easy! It hardly seems fair.

However, then I started to put things into perspective. Just because it’s easy for me, doesn’t mean it comes easily for everyone else. I work in an office of maybe 25 people – about three quarters of those have no idea what to do with digital media and most would probably be more than happy to pay someone else to do something about it.

I also had to put myself into perspective. I have a lot of experience. I’ve been working in Marketing, Promotions and Event Planning for over seven years now (wow, SEVEN!). I’ve got two B.A.s and a college certificate. I’m always taking classes, reading books and staying up-to-date on the next best thing in the world of marketing. People who hire me are paying me for that knowledge and experience, for the fact that they didn’t have to go and do all that research. On top of that, contract work does not come with health benefits and vacation pay, so it’s also normal that you would request more money on that front.

All this to say, I’m going to start charging for my services. You can check out my professional work resume on my LinkedIn profile to give you an idea of what I can do for you. Please send an email to nancyjkenny at yahoo dot com if you would like to discuss how I can help market your business. You can also schedule a meeting by using Tungle and checking my availability. If you buy me lunch, the initial consultation will be free.

In the meantime, I leave you with this awesome video on not giving it all away for free:


  1. “The best arts marketing person I know” says
    You Go, Girl!!
    Seriously, if we were in the corporate world, we’d be asking $100/hr, and no one would bat an eyelid. I know it’s scary at first–I went through the very same thing.
    Here’s the thing: you’re an actor, so use your acting skills. I remember I walked into this interview about 8 years ago, and they asked me how much I charged. I said “$30-50/hr”, and I said it with surprising confidence (surprising, because I didn’t feel confident). It was a poker game, and I was bluffing. But I won the bluff. That summer I made enough money to take a trip to Europe.

    • I don’t know many arts marketing people :p

      Seriously though, you’ve been an amazingly big help!

  2. In yoga we get this all the time too. And there’s pressure to have yoga be free, so a lot of teachers feel they shouldn’t charge for their work. So a lot don’t, which makes it tricky for the professionals.

    lululemon did exactly what this guy talked about in the video and doesn’t pay a single yoga teacher but says it’s “good publicity” for them. It’s cheap of them and I wouldn’t do it. Still don’t.

    I volunteer when I want to but otherwise I definitely charge for my services, even to groups you’d think I’d volunteer to. They have budgets and I have a mortgage!

    • Do they not even get the clothes for free? I would do certain things on a barter system. For instance, I’m going to help someone develop a social media strategy in exchange for an actor’s demo reel. A reel is something I need and ranges in price from $300 to $600 if done right so I feel it’s a good deal. That said, this is with an independent producer and not a million dollar corporation…

  3. Tim will be charging too for Photography now . He is valuable, and talented as well. NO more handouts. His equipment is way to expensive as are all the courses at SPAO he has taken…the Value of Tim.

    • Good for Tim!

  4. Great post, Nancy. What I find particularly interesting is how it increasingly becomes necessary to put a dollar value on ‘you’. By that I mean, when you sign on to provide marketing services, particularly through social media, you are offering your personality, and your contacts as much as any other marketing skill. You are essentially selling a product by communicating about it through your own perspective and to your network. And employers know this and that is all part of what attracts them to you. How do you put a dollar value on that?
    I guess you can argue that as an actor, you are also selling ‘you’, so in a way you are used to this sort of thing – but that is why there is, in professional theatre, unions and pay scales – some kind of system to say what your time is worth – and a way of distancing yourself from having to say: I charge X.
    I think this is an exciting direction for you, and I’m glad you’ve found people to help you define all of these things!

    • Hey HM, it’s weird isn’t it? Marketing is such a funny creature and yet one that meshes so well with the artist lifestyle. So much about the job is networking and who you know. I feel very lucky in a sense, because I love networking or “schmoozing.” One of my favorite things is meeting new people at events. I’m genuinely interested in what they do and who they are but some part of my brain is also cataloging and going “OK, how can this person connect to what I am doing right now?” Then again, I’m also terrible for always wanting to fix other people’s problems and so there is also a part of my brain going “OK, how can I solve their problem?” All of which, as you said, boils down to my own personality and network of contacts and makes me a good marketer.

      And yes, my biggest issue has been how do I put a dollar value on that?

      As you said, for actors you get a union, as well as an agent that can get the dollar value sorted out for you… then again, maybe that’s why some actors are so bad at dollar values and negotiations because they have someone else to do it for them?

      I get into the same problematic situation when I get asked by someone to help them create an actor resume or where to find auditions and other actor related services. That’s why I love Susan’s article so much. It’s not that I don’t want to help people out, especially if they are friends, it’s just that it’s taking me an incredible amount of time to amass that knowledge… lots of trial and error, lots of research, lots handshaking/networking/schmoozing. Yes, stuff that I enjoy, but stuff that has taken me a long time to learn.

      But after a while, you have to stop giving it all away for free or nobody will ever pay for it. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, you know?

  5. […] All of which brought me to a post by Nancy Kenny called The Value of Me. […]

  6. […] most of you seem to have been really keen on my recent posts, especially the one on The Value of Me. Rebecca Coleman (her again?) sent me a really great post she wrote a few years ago on putting […]

  7. Loved the Yoda video…so true, so true. I named my dog Yoda. Nice blog you have going.

    Sierra Michaels
    author of Intimate Encounters

  8. […] Then Nancy Kenny asked me for some advice about valuing her new service, and wrote about that experience in a post called The Value of Me […]

  9. […] Nancy Kenny on the prover­bial free lunch. Robert Hein­lein used to love throw­ing the acronym TANSTAAFL into books right and left. That’s short for “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” But too often, those of us work­ing in the arts are expected not only to work for lunch but to make the lunch, serve it and bus the table after. (Actors make great wait­ers, if you hadn’t noticed.) Nancy Kenny writes about the impor­tance of find­ing your value and nam­ing it. And if that weren’t enough to warm my heart, she even includes a video of Har­lan Elli­son on the impor­tance of pay­ing the writer. […]

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