What to do when the work you love to do doesn’t pay?

Hi Brooke,

I could probably use some coaching around this at some point, but I’m travelling a lot over the next couple of months and won’t be able to make many of the live calls.

I’m 53 and about three years ago I decided to reinvent myself as a food and travel photographer and writer. I have plenty of self-confidence, love what I do and am very good at it, and am starting to build a significant portfolio of work with great publications and local small businesses. However people only want to pay me peanuts! I recently wrote and photographed a piece for a national online magazine, which involved a trip out to the location, a number of interviews with different people, a morning of photography and then the whole writing & editing process, for which I only got paid $400, their standard rate. I’m currently shooting the catalog for a local food business and producing excellent photos but the rate I was able to agree with the client still doesn’t represent a good hourly rate, let alone all the expertise and expensive equipment I’m able to bring to the party.

Essentially I’m super busy, have created myself a full-time job but all told am probably earning around the minimum wage for my talents. I love the work, love the flexibility the freelance lifestyle brings and the opportunities I get to meet new places and tell peoples’ stories. I know there would be more money in teaching, advertising work (though that’s not really my sort of photography) and writing for trade publications but none of those avenues is particularly appealing. I’m also lucky that I don’t desperately need the money as this is our second income.

BUT how do I stop myself from seething with resentment all the time that my work is so undervalued monetarily? I really want to do a good job and create excellent work (also because that’s the way to get MORE work) but seem to spend all my time through edits and reshoots saying to myself through gritted teeth ‘but you’re not PAYING for this’.

(Thanks for the DARE challenge BTW. Thanks to it I’ve been able to negotiate a little pay rise with a regular client and nab myself a couple of media freebies. But we’re still talking $50 here and there.)