If you are community-minded, it’s energizing to get involved with a project or nonprofit and use your abilities to successfully reach the organization’s goals. However, as someone who does creative work, I’ve noticed that I am asked far more frequently than my counterparts in, say, the legal or accounting fields, to provide my skills and knowledge at no cost.
It’s tough, because when I am excited about a project I want to do everything I can to move it forward. And as a board member for a nonprofit am I not supposed to do money-saving work to better the organization? The things I do best include writing and editing, research, project management, and creating communication strategies. I like doing these things. I also get paid to do these things, and I know how much each is worth. Where do I set the boundary? Where do I draw the line and avoid giving away too much of my expertise?
Creative work is undervalued by those who can’t do it. It surprises me how often I hear people say that they hate writing marketing copy or they don’t know how to organize web content, but when they find that I can do these things, a switch is flipped and suddenly the work is so easy that, surely, I’ll only need a few minutes to do it. They’ve forgotten that affinity doesn’t automatically equal speed or ease.
If you are a creative, my advice is to determine what your time and talents are worth, and only give away the amount you consider reasonable. And if you aren’t a creative, stop asking those who are―writers, artists, musicians―to give you their time, talent, and intellectual property for free. They have worked hard to develop their skills and talents and deserve not only to be respected, but to be compensated.
After spending several years working as an academic reference librarian and a community college library director, Tanzi Merritt shifted her career to become a tech company’s sales & marketing coordinator. She sits on a number of nonprofit boards, and, during her off-hours, obsessively watches documentaries, buys art, and frequents local craft breweries. Connect with her: www.linkedin.com/in/tanzidmerritt.