Are you earning every cent you can possibly make?
Is that what you should strive to do?
Or are there more important things than extracting maximum value?
I’m going to revisit this, but first, let me tell you a story…
From time to time, I do research for a client. It’s not difficult work, but it’s tedious. When the research bears fruit, he pays me generously — a couple hundred dollars per hour.
In September of 2013, he gave me my third or fourth assignment, and I got to work.
The day got away from me, though. By the time I turned in my work, he already reached his answer independently…
“Don’t worry about it,” he told me. “You did the work, so I’m still going to pay you…”
“No,” I said. “Don’t pay me. I didn’t get anything done.”
“But you did the work,” he said.
“Listen, I want to earn it. You can get me the next time,” I said.
We talked again later the same day.
“You know, I already told this to your boss, but you’re a class guy, for not taking that money.”
“I want to earn it. That’s all,” I replied.
Money is About the Means
I write a lot about and around the topic of money, not because it’s the pursuit, but because it’s the means.
In other words… no one wants a million dollars in the bank.*
(*Note: unless I can turn it into gold coins and go swimming. That’d be sick)
We want what that money means:
- Security for our families
- Buying drinks and lunches for our friends
- Trips to see the world
The reason why negotiating your salary is so important…
Is yeah, to make more money…
But more importantly, it signals what you’re worth — NOW, and further into your career.
Similarly, the means in which you earn money is just as important as how much you earn.
I worked with one book client, who made sure he earned every penny on his royalty check. He combed through his royalty statement, broke down payments to the thousandth of a cent, reexamined his contract…
Then let his publisher know they shorted him $40.
At around the same time, another client got a (low) five-figure payment for the delivery of a rewrite of a pilot draft.
When I told him about the check, he said, “No, take your commission, but then split it and send it to the [other two co-writers]. I did no work on this draft.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’ll sleep better at night.”
If you’re working in entertainment, chances are you don’t just want to be an earner — you want to be a big earner.
But I’d argue how you earn is just as important (if not more) than how much you earn.
Photo Credit: wbeem