The single most stressful issue in my life right now has got to be the process of getting paid. As more and more of my work falls into the “self-employed” category, the billing and payment process is becoming both more important and more difficult.
The first issue is with charging my work out at a rate that both satisfies my need for income with my desire to charge no more than I would want to pay for such work myself. Coming from the point of view of someone who can readily accomplish most any task I set myself too, I find it very difficult to charge money for that which comes easily to me. The attitude I find myself up against is one of “If I can do this, then anyone can do it, and if anyone can do it, it can’t be worth that much, right?”.
I also find it very difficult to justify charging out for work that I might otherwise do for free, as in the case of a helping hand for friends or family.
When friends try to assure me that I’m only charging what is fair and expected for such work, I find myself feeling suspicious of their words, feeling like they’re only supporting some sort of self-perpetuating capitalist greed.
On top of all this maelstrom of internal debate, I’m also finding it very difficult to discover exactly how much is standard for the work I do. Income, especially among the self-employed, feels like a very touchy subject; nobody really wants to discuss exactly how much they make. This is especially true amongst different tradespeople on the same jobsite! What discoveries I’ve made suggest that my own current rate is low to middling, even though it often feels like a phenomenal amount to me.
When I’m preparing a bill, I find myself invariably filled with dread of the moment of presentation; that first reaction from a client can really break me! Even when paid a fixed price or working against an agreed-upon amount, I almost always feel guilty about accepting payment for anything short of some prolonged and/or herculean physical effort.
About the only time I can gladly accept payment is when there is some sort of disconnect between the amount billed out and the amount paid out (as when an employer charges out labour, then pays out their employee some percentage), or when the person I’m billing is truly and properly so rich that whatever I’m charging is but a drop in the bucket.
Of course, there are always those rare (and hopefully, brief) situations where I’m charging out time to some disgusting asshole or greedy prick for whom I have no respect, and have neither intention nor desire to continue working for. Those jerks I will gladly charge as much as I can squeeze out of them, in the unusual occasion I get stuck with such a one.
In the meantime, I keep on working, stressing, and trying to find that “just right” balanced rate; one that is fair for the work done, and alarms neither my clients nor myself.