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Know Your Worth: A New Year's Resolution Every Artist (and Every Person) Should Make

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An artist friend of mine calls me the other night, upset that his manager is still accepting low ball fees without a fight from presenters he's already proven himself to in performances from years before. He goes on and on about how much he has accomplished over the last few years and I stop him to ask, "So you believe your value has increased? You think you're worth more now?". He hesitates, almost as if he's ashamed to admit it, but he finally says, "Yes." I tell him the problem is simple to see, "Your manager doesn't agree." The solution was even simpler, he needed a new manager.

A wise friend once told me that it does not matter how great you see yourself in your own eyes. If the team around you doesn't see you that way, they cannot help you get to where you want to be. They cannot advocate earnestly and fervently on your behalf. I add to that by saying if you do not understand your own worth you cannot increase your monetary value. In every other business employees prove themselves, show their worth and then rightfully demand promotions or increases in pay. But in the arts world, we artists have tricked ourselves into believing that if what we do brings us so much joy and happens to come easily to us, surely we should not charge a premium for it. Heck, we even offer our services for free much of the time. We have been taught to believe we are in service to the art, and that is true to a great extent when we are on the stage. But prior to making our entrance from the wings, a few things need to be established:

1. Your Time Is Worth Something: Because we've been practicing our craft since we were little ones, we sometimes discount the value of our practice time. Remember that without that time spent we would be unprepared for our engagements. Therefore, that time is valuable beyond measure. Consider it when you are setting your fees. I'm not talking about billable hours (though wouldn't that be nice?!), but rather I'm asking you not to blow off the monetary value embedded in your preparation.

2. The More You Offer, the More You Are Worth: Artists must stop thinking of ourselves as bargains and begin to see ourselves as extremely valuable package deals. If you offer more than a performance experience, don't throw in all your perks (lectures, outreach, masterclasses, etc.) for free. Every activity you offer provides extra value to the presenter and his audience.

3. Consider the Value of Your Residual Impact: This is why I envy TV actors. Years later, when we're still laughing at their sitcoms and crying over their dramas, they are still getting paid for it! What kind of impression will you leave behind that has residual value? A concert will hopefully impact your audience and they will remember the experience or even be moved by it for years. But in your supplementary activities is your chance to change lives, to cause young artists to think or play differently, to expose outreach audiences to new art they might not have known otherwise. And even though it will be you bringing the experience to town, the art presenter will benefit greatly in reputation from the positive experience you provide. That is worth a lot.

And so are you. Stop right now with the excuses about the down economy and the drop in funding for the arts and understand this:

People find a way to pay for what they really want.

The only time I have not gotten more for my services is when I have failed to ask. As Chrissy from Love and Hip-Hop said on the last episode (yes, this high brow Classical musician is fascinated by reality TV), "People don't give you what you deserve. You only get what you negotiate for."

I happen to think you and your art are worth a little negotiation, don't you?

Happy New Year! Here's to a prosperous 2012.

Check out Jade's Emerge Already! blog, the go-to destination for creative types looking to take their careers to Level Next: http://emergealready.blogspot.com/. New entries coming in 2012 but the backlog will keep you busy for now!