“My Time Isn’t Worth Anything.” Is Yours? Why Valuing The Time You Spend on Your Creative Business Is Essential
Today I want to talk to you about time and how we value it.
The other day, me and a friend of mine were discussing getting some repairs done on his car, and whether he could do it himself.
When we talked, I said “It really depends on whether you feel you have the time to do it and learn how to do it.”
He said, “Well, my time isn’t worth anything.”
The conversation continued but a part of me retreated into my mind in shock.
I run my whole creative business based on specific hourly and daily rates that I’ve calculated based on my experience and the market as a whole. I have to value my time as ‘worth something’ to run my business.
That translates into valuing my time as an individual in my leisure hours, and wanting to spend it in fruitful ways.
The conversation started me thinking. We know time equals money, but do we really believe it – particularly when we’re talking about our own time? And when we think about time equalling money in our business, what does that actually mean?
Time and money
First, I should mention that, for me, time does not equal money. Time is far more precious.
During your lifetime, you can attempt to accumulate as much wealth as you possibly can. Given the right resources and privileges, there will be no limit to the wealth you can accumulate.
But you cannot accumulate more time.
You can be healthier to try and live longer. You can stay awake for more hours. You can multi-task or mono-task or batch your tasks and a thousand other things to maximise your time.
But, ultimately, you have a given amount of time on the planet, and that’s all you’re going to get.
Many yoga practices talk about the concept of limited breath; that we only get a set number of breaths in our life, and therefore it’s important to use them wisely through deep and restorative breathing.
These ideas of a limited amount of time and breath were one of the driving forces behind starting my own creative business.
It wasn’t so I could make more money. Although I am paid more on an hourly rate than I did when I was on a salary, my annual ‘salary’ now is slightly less than it would be if I was working in a full time job at the same level.
For some people, that’s a bit shocking. They see running your own business as a way to make lots of money.
For me, it’s a way to try and make lots of time. Or more accurately, to consciously absorb the limited time I do have. To ‘make’ it feel more by being more conscious of it.
Getting back time for the things that were important for me was the main reason I began my creative business, and I’m in a position of privilege to be able to do that.
Money and things
Second, I see obtaining money as about what you can do with it, not as a symbol of success (even when it’s not being used). Money ‘works’ because it’s a universal commodity; something which can be exchanged for any other product or service we want. When it’s not being used in that way – what is it? What’s it for?
One of the exercises I do with my students when I talk to them about employment is to talk about two ways of approaching salary. The first is having a specific number in your head, and wanting to have that number go into your bank account each year. The second is working out how much you need to live the life you want, and aiming for that.
I tell them most people start their working life by having a specific number in their head. They haven’t thought carefully about the life they want and how much this costs. They just want that number.
This is what a lot of the business coaches and other ‘six figure folk’ will talk to you about. We want six figures because, culturally, six figures seems like you’ve made it. And as Layla Saad says in this brilliant article, people who push this on us as a sales tactic are failing us.
But if you only need five figures or four figures, then why are you spending all your time trying to get six figures? You are using up a limited resource (your time) trying to accumulate a potentially-infinite resource (money) because you ‘six figures’ is a symbol of something.
There will always be more money to be made and no limit to the wealth you could accumulate. There will not always be more time. There will always be a limit.
Valuing yourself and your time
With these two things in mind, I want you to know your time is worth something, because it’s precious. You do not have much of it and you must value it because of that. It’s not about your skills or education or any other factor; you must value your time simply because one day it will run out.
I value my time more highly than any amount of money I could earn. That doesn’t mean I have so much money I don’t need to work – it means I think carefully when I choose what projects to work on and how I wish to set my hourly and daily rate.
Not everyone has this privilege, and I’m acutely aware of my own privileges in saying I have choice in my work. I believe (and fight for) a society in which people are paid a true living wage, or receive a universal income, which I see as helping us all to move away from valuing humans only through the lens of money and productivity. We are valuable because we live, not because we live with a certain set of skills, talents or knowledge.
If you run your own creative business, however, you are also in a position to think carefully, choose your work, and set your own value.
I’ve been clear it’s essential you value your time. But how do you go about calculating that value in a way which translates into something meaningful for your creative business?
How you calculate your worth – that hourly or daily rate, or even the eventual price of your products or services – is up to you. It’s up to how you value your time and how valuable you think your work is to other people.
Wealth coaches and other six figure folk tell you if you don’t put a high price on your hourly or daily work, or on your products or services, you have mental blocks to accumulating wealth. That might be true for some – but we also live in cultures with other people. We live with economics.
Economic thought and structures affect us all, in negative and positive ways. Pretending you don’t have to look at competitors, customers, or your industry to put a price on your hourly or daily work, or your products or services, is complete rubbish.
Creative business people I’ve met often value their time and set their wage based on social norms, like the minimum wage. This makes sense in many ways; it’s a simple, easy choice, and we assume these wages are able to support someone in living a healthy and fruitful lifestyle.
But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t put a value on your time according to other factors.
A senior designer will get paid more than a junior designer because of experience and skill; are you valuing your time based on experience?
Someone who has a unique gift or a skill that’s very hard to master may get paid more because they are a rarity; are you valuing your time based on uniqueness?
People in London get paid a specific amount more than people outside the capital, because of the cost of living; are you valuing your time based on location?
As a personal example, I recently increased my copywriting rates. This was to reflect my experience in the industry and to better fit in with the market average shared by a trusted copywriting group.
Of course, when I did this I was nervous and immediately thought no-one would want to pay for me because I was more expensive. Of course, it didn’t change anything. People still wanted to hire me.
I had increased my costs because of legitimate and understandable reasons, and that made sense to people who wanted to hire me. What are the reasons behind how you value your time and set your rates?
Commit to valuing your time. Believe your time is of value (and not just because you might be skilled or clever or talented). Write it down, put it into your journal, make it your phone background. Start to let yourself value your time.
Then spend some time thinking of and documenting the reasons behind why you currently calculate the value of the time the way you do. Is it based on market averages, competition, the minimum wage, or something else? What else might you want to consider when calculating the value of the time you spend on your creative business?
Money is a very difficult thing to talk about and, as a creative business owner, it becomes even more complicated when the wages we’re earning are wrapped up in our own self belief and self esteem. Eli Trier’s email series and ebook called Naked Money is a great way to understand how different creative people relate to money, and their personal challenges. There’s also a Facebook group to join and learn from other creatives.
If you take just one thing away from this article, it’s that I want you to know your time is worth something. To your family and friends, your time is irreplaceable. To your creative business and your customers, your time is invaluable. There’s always more money to accumulate, but we only have so much time in the world. How you spend it, value it, and how you wish others to value it, is in your hands.
Your brand is invaluable
On September 28th I’m launching a do-it-yourself product to help creative business owners like make their brand crystal clear.
Your brand is one of the most valuable elements of your creative business. When done right, it’ll help you make decisions more easily and make the most of your time and energy.
The do-it-yourself product is a workbook guiding you through creating a crystal clear brand, done in an interactive, engaging and friendly way.
If you’re interested in learning more about the product and getting updates about the launch, sign up below.
To say thank you for signing up, once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll get a free copy of my guide written specifically for creative business owners: How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird.