How Much Does Your Time Cost?

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Recently I’ve been wondering about the ever-increasing speed with which time passes. That wondering led me straight into a trap of re-visiting and re-thinking how much of my precious time I managed to waste on pointless activities.

In reality, I chose to keep busy (lots of tasks to tick off on my to-do lists) for the sake of keeping busy, while creatively I was stuck. A horrible place to be in, but it happens when your goals and values aren’t aligned with the actions you take.

Time is the only commodity we cannot buy more of. In my 20’s I thought my time was unlimited, and I was willing to work on projects for free, happily devoting and often wasting pressure minutes and hours of my life.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

However, now being much older, I value my time much more than I used to and choose not to work for free. I make exceptions for friends’ projects, and of course, I develop my own projects.

Nowadays, I value my time immensely. Before I act on my ideas or commit to a project, I realistically (still something I struggle with but getting better with practice) need to evaluate how much time it will cost me to make that idea successful.

In my planning phase (pre-production), I also need to be very honest with myself as to whether that particular idea has chances of flying high or just satisfy my ego and keep me busy for a while.

I wasted so much time and money over the years on crazy batshit ideas and projects. Nowadays, as much as I want to be inspired by what I do, I also need to be realistic in how many projects I can be emotionally and practically involved, without compromising on the vision and execution.

Since 2021 is a year of saying yes and a year of change, I decided to rely on my gut feelings more (in the past, I’ve often ignored my intuition based on my past negative experience with following my gut), before I commit to any project (that includes my own projects, competitions, paid jobs, sponsorships etc.). I need to know that my time will be somehow rewarded by building creative capital for the future or earning money.

However, that wasn’t always the case. My current realization is a culmination of many years of inner work, taking small steps and building up my business muscles by toughening up, setting up boundaries and learning how to appreciate my experience and knowledge, which I always took for granted, because it was easy for me to learn about filmmaking and writing. Having that kind of inner strength allows me to walk away from a situations that don’t work for me and say no to projects that don’t tick at least one of my three boxes:

–      creative capital

–      financial capital (paid jobs / earning money)

–      charity and friends’ projects

Quite recently, I got an email from someone who runs a company in several eastern European countries. I checked the company. It looked all legit and pretty fancy. That someone thought it was entirely ok to ask me to help him expand his company for FREE. Yes, you heard that right. He believed that offering some potential future earnings at some vague point in the future was good enough for me to jump on board, offer my experience, expertise and contacts.

What he wanted and needed required a lot of time, creative thinking and a clever, innovative approach. I’m not a stranger to any of that and would have been more than happy to be involved as long as there was monetary compensation for me. Right from the start, I was very straight with him that I wasn’t willing to work for free, neither willing to collect revenue at some point in the future.

My 20-year-old self would have felt incredibly uncomfortable saying/writing or expressing any of the above. However, my 40-year-old self protects and values her time too much to waste it on projects and ideas that aren’t aligned with what I want to achieve and where I want to be in my life.

Of course, saying “no” isn’t easy, but protecting your valuable time is much more important than wanting to be a nice “girl”, who doesn’t want to upset anyone (years of conditioning, ladies).

I get frustrated by requests and people assuming that my time is less valuable, just because I work in the creative industry, and not as an investment banker.

If I’m spending any of my time on projects that aren’t my own, I want to be paid for that, and no one should assume otherwise.

For some reason, certain people still believe that women should be underpaid, even if they are better qualified than their male counterparts, or even work for free to prove they are worth getting the job or assignment. Modern women are much better educated than their fathers were but earn a fraction of what they did. The majority of requests I get for a free consultation or project-based work come from men. When I tell them that I’m not interested in offering my time for free, they either fall silent or argue that it is a fantastic opportunity for me, and they are doing me a favor.

This systematic behaviour and belief that has been accepted across many industries. Yes, we love our jobs(creative jobs in creative industries) and have mega satisfaction creating projects, but we also need to eat and pay our bills, just like the investment bankers and shop assistants do.

I’ve met and dealt with a lot of men, who look for help in building their companies on the cheap by using overqualified women to either do their jobs or do jobs that other men would charge for through the roof.


If you are a woman constantly bombarded by requests to do something for free, cheaper, or for a fraction of the market price, stop and think how much your time is worth? Is it worth getting all involved, providing information, work for 30% of what you usually earn on a promise of future earnings? What would you do with this time if you didn’t work on that project? Is that free project ticking all of your satisfaction boxes? Once you start thinking about your work (especially if you work as a freelancer or are an entrepreneur) in the category of time invested and profit gained (money, satisfaction, investment), it will transform the way you think about your working hours and allow you to shift your focus to what is important.

Let’s face it; no one will hand us equal pay if we don’t start firmly asking for it and don’t start evaluating our time for what it is worth.

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