I’ve been thinking about hourly pay vs. project- or value-based pay. Again.
It comes up from time to time when a conversation arises with someone who wants to know my predictions of hours for a project and/or my hourly rate. That’s not how I do my work. It’s not how I think about my work.
Hourly wages are truly an old old old concept, dating back to the ancient societies of Egypt, Greece and Rome, and have at best select uses these days. My creative work is not in the production of widgets, and it’s not fairly measurable in mass quantities or pennies per piece.
A creator, an artist, is a knowledge worker and then some. In the most inspirational senses, an artist is far more, a spiritual worker, a conjurer, a mystic, a builder of worlds that the vast majority of humanity cannot see and until they are shown the way.
How can such an other-worldly function in society be priced out by the nut and screw? It can’t. When I am creating, I am in a different space than widget work. To count ticks of the clock for the benefit of someone else’s time keeping and comfort is a distraction and disservice to the ends we, presumably, share. When I’m hired for work, I think in terms of outcomes, of value added.
Artists, I’ll say, are paid (or ought to be) for their abilities to channel the muse and apply their knowledge and experience in doing so, and for the results they elicit with such energies. Do not ask them to go back in time hundreds or thousands of years to when laborers were paid in wages and they were viewed as so replaceable. Artists are not replaceable. I am not replaceable.
Sure, another person can be hired in my stead, but they will not be all that I embody. For better or worse. Nor would I be all that they embody. Creative minds, hearts and hands are not interchangeable, and neither are our hours. We all use them differently.
Hours are interchangeable. Concepts are not. When people are doing a type of work that is not interchangeable, and the people doing that work are not interchangeable, then the hourly pay structure is no longer relevant.
When hashing out hours for pay becomes a central focus of discussion, it’s a distraction and the focus is not really on the work and the desired outcomes. It’s a red flag in the collaboration. It’s getting into the weeds of the artist’s yard rather than focusing on the goals to be accomplished. Those weeds, the details of the artist’s process, are particular to the artist.
In my opinion, money should be an easy point of agreement when both sides of the conversation are focused on the work and have in common a win-win philosophy. When that happens, it’s clear both sides are ready to work in service to each other and their shared goal(s).
As creative beings, to focus on our value corresponding to hours and wages, like when I worked at a fast food restaurant at 16 years of age, is to diminish our own worth in the world. Further, to ask others to do so is to diminish the whole of creativity itself.
The gist: Hourly wages focus on quantity. Value-based pay focuses on quality. As do I. An artist who does quality work efficiently should be paid more, not less. Time has no bearing. Skill does.
Bottom line: The outcome is all that matters. Pay the artist for the outcome not the process.