I’ve just passed the one year mark of freelancing. I love doing what I do, but it’s come at a price and with lots of learning experiences. I’ve learned how to budget. I’ve learned how to accomplish so many things in so little time in order to continue the hustle. I’ve learned the art of LIVING by my Google Calendar. I’ve learned to sacrifice and I’ve learned when the sacrifice is too much and rest is imperative. And I’ve learned how to survive.
2017 was a beautiful year of so much change, but it was unmistakably hard for me. I contributed a ton of work to two separate theatrical productions, only to spend my own money to get to the performances and find myself uncredited. I was completely erased from the first program and listed in the special thanks along with people barely attached to that project in the second (while others got full credit for the work we did as a team). Horrifyingly but not surprisingly, both times I was the only woman on that team and the only one to not receive any visible credit. To pour salt on the wound, I was severely undervalued and underpaid for both projects, and while it may have been a bad assumption on my part to think that twelve extra letters of ink would make up for the financial gap, losing out on both devastated me. The erasure of women’s work isn’t anything new, but after losing thousands of dollars on these specific projects, I felt betrayed. I felt small. I felt wronged.
Being wronged shouldn’t be so hard to talk about, yet this is 2018, and every administration – arts, federal, comedic, etc. – takes massive offense in allowing women to speak their truths out of fear of ruining a man’s reputation and/or upward mobility. Far stronger women have been wronged far worse than I have (I believe Christine Blasey Ford), but we need to have the space to talk about it without immediately getting slammed or pegged as “attention-seeking”.
It should be noted that I’m specifically referring to professional work erasure (another blog post about the #MeToo movement pending). But out of that same vein of fear of retaliation, professional and personal, from these contractors, I eventually convinced myself they were right and I was wrong, and I didn’t deserve the accolades I worked so hard for. That negative perpetual self-talk destroyed a part of me that I’m working every day to rebuild, and it wasn’t until a panel of women convinced me that I was worth more that I finally started believing them.
You are only as strong as your weakest link. In 2017, mine was the inability stand up for myself and what I’m worth. I vowed to change that in 2018. I now value my backbone as much as the art I create, and it’s important that both are present in the work that I do. With this mentality at the forefront of my creative endeavors, I made my iO, Second City, and NYC performing debut within a month of each other, I wrote 35+ pieces of new music, and I’m looking forward to an even brighter 2019.
So what have we learned?
1) Gather your evidence and speak up when professionally wronged. Don’t wait for someone else to bring it up
Clearly this this must be done in your own time when you’re ready for it, but I have missed the windows of facing the people who refused to credit me to tell them how hurt I was by their actions. I waited for the “right moment” for too long, and now it’s passed, and we’ll never get that chance to make things right. Nothing can be done to repair the situations, and it’s now on me alone to work through. Let your backbone come through, even if it’s just to open the conversation.
2) Know your worth, ESPECIALLY when it comes to your time
None of us are getting paid what we should be getting paid. But gauge the requests made of you by how much of your time you’ll have to give up and if that’s worth it. I gave four months of my life to a project that underpaid me TWICE – once by retail value and the second because the billing department screwed up and refused to counter their error because of “tax reasons”. (I have no legal ground to stand on because we were working without contract).
3) Spell everything out in contracts for everyone’s sake
If this is the first time you’re working with someone, don’t be afraid of the contract. It’s not to screw anyone out of anything – it’s so all of you are protected. My rates haven’t changed much, but now my fee doubles if I’m not credited in promotional materials and in the program. Adding twelve little letters doesn’t seem as painstaking now, does it?
You may not be getting paid what you’re worth, but you are worth being visible in the work that you do. Ask for your light and shine.
Ciao for now,