Saturday, September 1, 2007

Dear John

Recently, I had to set my rates. No, I haven't succumbed to lure of the streets. Rather, I'm a (grossly under-employed) music teacher with one spanking new private student. This student, whom I'll call "Newton" (why aren't more people named "Newton?") pretty much conked me on the head: someone referred her to me, so all I had to do was field her emails about when and where I could teach. I pressed "send" and pressed "send" again. This was easy! I was an impresario of advertisement, a veritable marketing wunder-kind!

And then came the question, tucked at the bottom of an innocent email about parking: "What are your rates?"

I stopped cold. My rates? Sure, I knew I had them. Somewhere. In the drawer at the bottom of my closet, or maybe down around my pancreas, an organ in which I'd never quite been able to muster faith. I mean, yes, payment was part of the deal, definitely... Moving faster than I had since Aram Marks chased me around the playground trying to see up my skirt, I logged off my email, shut down the computer, and left the room.

Because what Newton was really asking me was how much I was worth. Right there, right then, I needed to catalog my capacities, abilities, and strengths, and slap a price tag on them. It was frightening, and confusing. How much did my left elbow figure into the equation? What about my unfortunate weakness for Northern Exposure? The fact that I didn't like Strauss? My double tonguing alone should fetch $3.75...

No one but a freelancer or a streetwalker is so baldly obliged to set a price on herself. It's an odd exercise, and one to which I'm sure I'll be subjected again.

It's $30 an hour, by the way. Ask about the sliding scale.

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