My time is worth more than $1.25 an hour. Everyone’s time is worth more than that.
Yet that’s how much I was paid to go through a jury selection process at my local courthouse a few weeks ago. I didn’t get on the jury — for a murder trial that’s still taking place — or the pay rate of $7.50 a day for six hours of jury duty each day would have turned out to be less at an hourly rate.
I was only at the courthouse for two days, earning $15 for jury service and $2.38 for mileage. Others had been there for a week before a jury was selected. Some received full pay from their employers for their time in court. Others, like me, are freelancers who don’t earn money if they aren’t working.
I don’t mean for this to be a rant on how to improve the jury selection process or the importance to society of volunteers for jury service. It’s a key part of a working democracy.
Value your time
What it got me thinking about was how we value our time. I’ve written here about how to set rates as a freelancer. It’s not rocket science. If you want quality, you pay for quality.
The same goes for jury service, I believe. Again, without going too far on a tangent about jury selection, do you really want jurors who are in a jury box against their will because they can’t get out of jury duty? Who have employers who can pay them for a month or more to miss work?
If you’re paying a juror about $1 an hour — meaning they’re basically volunteering their time — are you getting a snapshot of the community?
All that aside, your time is worth something, isn’t it? Last year I went to a personal finance bloggers’ conference and listened to a successful blogger discuss in a keynote speech the importance of spending time with his children and taking time off from work. Duh, I thought.
That’s what work is for, in my mind. To have enough money so you can do the things you want to do. That may be spending time with your kids, going on vacations often, volunteering, immersing yourself in a hobby or passion, or doing nothing.
What it shouldn’t be, I think, is working for the sake of work and making money so you can buy a newer car, bigger house or anything else to keep up with the neighbors. If your life is so hectic that you can’t afford to take a few days off every once in awhile, then maybe it’s time to reassess.
$100 per hour too high?
So, back to my original question: How much is your time worth?
Figuring that out shouldn’t be that complicated. It should be enough to pay your bills and put some money away for retirement, emergencies and medical expenses. After that the choices are plentiful for spending your money:
- Pay for kids’ college?
- Go to Europe for a month?
- Take my spouse out to dinner each month?
- Buy season tickets to the theater or local sports team?
- Christmas gifts for everyone!
Whatever your spending choices, valuing your time appropriately will help you see how much work you need to do to get something. Want to buy groceries this week? That will require a day’s wages.
Here’s an example: I set my freelance rate at $100 an hour. I don’t always get it from clients, and sometimes I charge a lot less if it’s for a website I’m a fan of and consider the exposure to potential clients worthwhile. But for the most part, it’s a goal I aim for and often reach.
Actually, I don’t charge by the hour but by the project. I factor in many things when offering a price quote. I include time spent writing, researching, coming up with topic ideas, and possible rewrites. If a client is too needy and wants to be in constant contact through phone calls, video chats and emails, then I add that to the equation.
They don’t pay me any benefits. These include vacation, health insurance, retirement fund, sick days, and jury duty. They also don’t pay my expenses such as running my home office, computer repair, coffee, subscriptions, phone and when I have to go to the post office to mail them something.
These are all expenses that factor into my final price. There are cheaper writers on the marketplace, but I think my prices are fair and I provide an expertise that they can’t find elsewhere.
Why value your time so highly?
There’s an obvious answer to putting a high value to your time that I don’t think many workers think of — they only have so much of it.
There are only so many working hours in a day, and after just four hours of work I think the human mind goes dull and needs time off to rejuvenate. And if you’re spending all of your time at work, is that how you want to set your priorities?
During the two days of jury selection I went through, I was at the court from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a lunch break of one hour or so. I left my house at 8 a.m. to get there on time, and got home around 4:30 p.m. It was a long day.
On the first night when I got home, my wife and I cooked dinner and cleaned up, and then I went to my home office to work. It didn’t go so well. I was mentally drained from the day at jury duty, and didn’t have much more energy to expend on writing. I called it quits for the night after an hour of working.
If you’re going to work 40 hours per week, especially at a job you may not enjoy so much, then you should value your time highly and get paid well for it. That means charging what you’re worth.
If you’re not able to charge what you’re worth — meaning the marketplace isn’t up as high as you’d like it or need it to be — then it’s time to improve your skills for another profession or to at least cut your expenses so you can afford to work less.
If you’re not valuing your time, don’t expect someone else to do it for you.