Flowers in California

Flowers in California

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Determining the Value of Our Time

While thinking about a business idea, I arrived at the matter of charging for my services.  I have no idea how to do that.  I have no way of saying "My time is valuable."  For the past 12 years, almost exclusively, I have been out of the workforce and nothing I have done has had any economic value.  Or none from which I have financially benefitted.  So, how can I put a price on my time and contributions?

I'm not writing this from a bitter place.  I'm being honest.  Some people can determine that their expertise is worth a certain, perhaps high, amount and charge accordingly.  They feel deserving of it.  Perhaps the fact that I don't have a certain expertise is an issue.  But I like to think I have some talent.  So, using it and using up some of my time must be worth something.  I don't know what that would be.

Small jobs that I've had with rather low incomes are not the issue.  I believe that I was and am reasonably compensated for them.  The problem is with effort that I have expended elsewhere for zero compensation.  My volunteer work has included writing/editing responsibilities, event preparation (mismanaged, yes, but I tried), baking and some emotionally damaging school field trips.  I know that a lot of other people do a lot more on a volunteer basis.  It's not wrong to do it, and it is by choice, but when we give away so much time and effort for free, how do we turn around and say that our time has value?  We've shown, it seems to me, that it is available to be given away.

Additionally, there's the whole, huge issue of staying home with a child.  I made that choice and I am so glad that I did but I know that I've expended some effort in that area and financially, there has been no compensation.  I don't know that there could or should be but it does make it hard for a parent to know what their time is worth, in an economic sense.

It's probably not difficult to get an idea of what to charge for various (writing, memoir, editing) services (tell your friends!).  The issue is in believing that I deserve any money at all.  It's hard to find a cause and effect between effort and reward.  I've done things, my husband has earned money, I've earned small amounts of money and somehow we've gotten by.  The whole thing looks a little murky to me.

I guess the key is to realize that everyone's efforts, whether expended as volunteers, parents, or in the workplace, have value.  When we volunteer or raise children, we forego financial compensation.  When we return to the worplace, in whatever way we do that, we should be properly paid for our efforts.  Our value has not diminished (and may have increased through our diverse activities) because we have done some work for free.

Thinking about all of this, I have a new appreciation for the unpaid work that so many people do.  It is valuable.  And everyone's time is valuable.  It's very hard to put a dollar figure on this value but I guess it can be done.  Coming up with a wish list of purchases and then dividing it by hours worked probably isn't an ideal formula.  It might be a good place to start though.


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