24. What’s my time worth?

One thing is certain. It’s completely subjective. Sometimes I cost 3.000€ pr day. Sometimes I cost a tenth of that. Sometimes I do stuff for free. And of course, I often pay to do stuff. It’s all about context.

About ten years ago, my larp career started taking off. Until then, I’d lived very hand-to-mouth, and had borrowed money from my parents when there wasn’t enough in the hand. When people asked me how expensive I was to hire, I often compromised on my initial offer, since it was better doing stuff for 15€/hour than NOT doing stuff at 20€/hour. And though that’s a lot of money in many countries, in Denmark it really isn’t.

I remember how getting a little more stability made it possible for me to say no. That led to more jobs with higher pay, since it’s pretty nice being able to say no during negotiations. Also, less stressful. But if you can’t afford to say no, it’s hard to sell yourself dearly.

I’m willing to cut my rates a lot if something seems interesting. I’ve done massive amounts of volunteer work since I was 16, and it rubs off on my way of thinking about money. If I’d do it for free, I’ll usually also do it at a 50% discount, if the money simply isn’t there.

Often, the interesting projects also feature more money than the less-interesting ones, though. Often, more risk as well, and those have a tendency to go together for me.

I don’t necessarily charge more for hard or challenging work. But boring work? My life is too interesting for that, unless there’s solid compensation of some kind involved. I can copy-paste in excel at an impressive place, but if I can help it, I don’t do it. Not unless it’ll bring in big money or big favors.

This is also the most common reason I have for saying no to projects. My time is valuable to me, and there are a lot of things I COULD do, but which would bore me out of my skull. I’m just privileged enough not to have to do those, most of the time.

It doesn’t have to be physically risky. It can be reputationally risky or socially risky. Being s pioneer in a tiny-but-growing-industry means facing a lot of fire for doing things that aren’t accepted or normal. Getting paid well makes it easier to risk the scorn of your friends.

I try not to let money influence moral and legal risk, but of course it’s a factor. If someone offered me €10.000 to do a larp that was morally questionable, I probably wouldn’t do it, but I’d consider it longer than if it was for free. Harsh? Maybe, but when your personal finances are a bit wobbly, it’s hard not to think that way.

So far, the amount of people who offer me money for doing dodgy things is very small, though, so it’s not something I have to think about a lot. :-)

I’ve just flown from Copenhagen to Helsinki. My plane was delayed a little over 1.5 hours, which was annoying, but not critical. I didn’t have anything time-sensitive in Helsinki, so I shrugged and bore it with a smile.

And when the airport personnel asked for a volunteer to take a later flight and make a little money, I said “Sure, why not? 1.5 hours or 3.5 hours? I’ll help and get a little pocket money”. The money offered was a LOT less than my normal hourly fee, and in many circumstances I’d have said no, but here I didn’t have anything special I’d miss, and hanging out in the airport wasn’t a big hassle.

In the end, I got a seat on the original flight, but the thought was there.

Do I owe someone a favor? Did I promise? Do people expect it of me? Will it help make the world a better place? Is there a good war story to be had? Can I actually do this? There are plenty of reasons that can justify either raising or lowering your “price”. I’ll keep it to these five for now, though, and go out into Helsinki!

Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

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