It’s Not Always About the Benjamins

[Please welcome Tonya from today while J$ enjoys the rest of his paternity leave… You didn’t know this, but all finance bloggers are granted leave each time they have a baby. Only they don’t get paid for it, and all their work backs up while they’re off snuggling;) Happy Friday!]

All week long I tossed and turned while I slept… I was having crazy weird dreams, and all of them involved feeling a bit out of control.

In one very strange dream, I was sentenced (by whom I have no idea) to sleep in a car. But the car was evil, and spun around in the garage and went totally crazy, while I screamed and tried to grab a hold of the wheel and drive. I woke up from that dream in a pool of sweat.

I’m a Libra in the truest sense. I weigh decisions heavily. Maybe not ones like choosing what to eat for dinner, but bigger ones like saying yes to a job. I think that was the root of my nightmares this week.

Joining the Side Hustlers of America (S.H.O.A.)

In case you don’t know me from my blog, I’m a freelance video editor. I started freelancing in 2008, after I was laid off from my full time job of eight years. I didn’t plan on becoming a freelancer, so I was thrown into the deep end of the water at the height of the recession, and because no one was hiring full time at the time, I started working on my own.

To say it’s been a roller coaster ride is an understatement. I was not evenly remotely prepared emotionally and financially to become a freelancer, so I learned everything by trial and error.

As most freelancers can attest to, work has a tendency to ebb and flow, so in 2013 I joined the ranks of Side Hustlers of America (S.H.O.A). :)

I did everything from earning income from my blog, to coaching beach volleyball, to being an extra on game shows, to personal assistant work for my good friend, i.e., cleaning his disgusting toilet. Hey whatever man, it helped pay the bills. No job was “beneath me,” but what made them ideal is that they were flexible. Whenever I got totally slammed with freelance work, I could easily not clean my friend’s apartment, or move my volleyball lessons around.

A couple of months ago I decided I would start looking for full time work again. At the same time I decided to expand my search for new freelance clients and projects as well. I’ve just been relying on one client for 90% of my work, so if anything were to go south, I’d be screwed.

In the midst of my search, a contact for a job I applied for last summer appeared in my inbox, asking me to send an updated resume, because they were looking to hire someone. I excitedly emailed him back right away, and within five minutes he called me and asked if I would like to come in for an interview.

Weighing the Pros and Cons…

The position is for a part time job at a local programming type place, and one immediate pro was that it was located about three blocks from my house at the high school.

I met the team and they were all really cool and nice, and we chatted for a long time. I felt really good about how the interview went, and felt strongly they would hire me.

The other pros are that it is “somewhat” flexible, meaning I could work around my other work, and that in this position I could wear many hats. So if I wanted to get more experience in other areas of production, I could.

The major con, however, is that it pays $16/hour, and what is that after taxes? $11ish? I don’t want to give away my hourly or day rate as a video editor…but it’s much, much more. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. It’s not their fault, it’s just a very local, lower budget production type place.

Also, I don’t always know my freelance video schedule ahead of time (as much as I wish that were different, that’s never going to change), so if I’m scheduled at the part time place and something comes up for my main gig, and I say “no” one too many times, then my main client will eventually go elsewhere.

As predicted, I was offered the job, but needed time to think about it to weigh the pros and cons.

I even asked for opinions from those both inside and outside my industry. Interestingly enough, those outside said, “hell yeah, take it,” and those inside said, “no way!” But deep down, I already knew what my heart and gut were telling me.

Don’t undervalue yourself

In late 2012, I wrote a post on my blog, which was almost like a mission statement for myself, that I would focus on “big rock” projects (based on this story). I wanted to fill the majority of my time with as many bigger, interesting, and better paying jobs as humanly possible, and when and if I had a little down time, I could do some “small rock” projects (like coaching volleyball).

It’s a disservice to undervalue yourself. Now, if I was struggling to make ends meet, was in boat-loads of debt, or living paycheck to paycheck, then damn straight I would be taking whatever “rocks” I could get, big or small. But I’ve put myself in a decent place where I can be a little pickier about which jobs to take.

“What about the experience you would gain?” Well, that can really be achieved on my own if I really want it bad enough. I can borrow cameras from friends, produce my own material and put it on Youtube, write scripts and make them into movies, and I can certainly learn new technical skills on my own.

The point of this is that sometimes just because you are offered ANY money, you don’t always have to take it. There are many factors at stake: time, work/life balance, putting your skills to better use elsewhere, etc.

It’s not always about the Benjamins.

Have you ever regretted taking a part time job or side hustle just because you wanted to earn a little extra money?

Tonya is a video editor and writer living in Los Angeles. She chronicles her journey of becoming financially independent, and navigating the rocky waters of freelancing in her personal finance blog Budget & the Beach. You can follow her on twitter at @beachbudget.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This reminded me of two things: 1) My crazy dream about money I had myself the other week ;) And 2) that having a good head on your shoulders, and even better – a solid financial foundation – gives you mad options throughout life. As Tonya mentioned she’d of course take the money if she was on the brink of starvation and penniless, but since she’s set herself up to have some padding (even if it’s not her dream amount of padding), she’s able to make decisions on merit vs. money alone. And that’s some powerful $hit!

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  1. jestjack May 9, 2014 at 6:14 AM

    Hmmm….Your right it not always about the Benjamins. In another life I was an independent newspaper distributor…a really good distributor…a really, really good distributor. So good that the media company I worked for sent me and my family to Disney World, all expenses paid, not once BUT twice as a reward for a job well done. Anyway I made a good living but after 10 years the powers that be decided I made too much money….which was fine… we parted company. A couple of years later I ran into a VP from that same company that was now working in a different area within the company. He offered me a job on the spot…we met for lunch and the offer was much less than I used to make. BUT I convinced him to include incentives that could/would increase my earnings. In additions he had no problem with me taking time for other enterprises I was involved in. Sooo it WAS a lot less money BUT I took it anyway. What I had forgotten and hadn’t considered was the benefit package…stock options…paid for cell phone and mileage allowances and the BIG ONE….Health Insurance…not just any insurance but “cadillac insurance” . Did this for about 4 years …learned a lot…made a couple of bucks…enjoyed wonderful health insurance for the first time in about 20 years and left when the large media company sold the division of which I was a part. In short….I say take it…give it a try for 6 months and if it’s not for you,,,,thank them for the opportunity and move on. I’m with ya on the $16 an hour…MAN…but this might be a good way to “juice up” your resume and actually help you in your search for more lucrative work…

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      Thanks Jestjack for the thought-provoking comment. I can totally see where you are coming from. I think one thing that tipped that job in your favor is perks/benefits. Unfortunately this one doesn’t offer any. I totally get how the experience can look good on a resume, but in my particular industry, with enough self-motivation you can do the same kind of work on your own terms, get the same skills, and add it to your reel. THAT’S the part where I have to find the motivation. I’ve been wanting to produce my own material for quite some time now. I just have to DO IT! :)

      1. J. Money May 9, 2014 at 8:58 PM

        If you lived closer I could be your test subject to video :)

        1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:29 PM

          I’m sure you’d be awesome on camera!

  2. Jon @ Money Smart Guides May 9, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    I’m sort of in the same boat as you are. I try to weigh the pros and cons of taking certain jobs that pay less versus leaving myself open to higher paying gigs. It’s a fine line to walk and you really have to know your values and goals. I like how you used a mission statement to make it more clear. I might have to try that out as well. I’m not in debt and am doing well, it’s just hard to turn down money haha!!

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:39 AM

      Exactly Jon. I signed up to do work as an extra at the end of May (still waiting to hear if I got it), and it hardly pays much, but it’s on a weekend and works around everything else I’m doing and looks like interesting work. You just have to weigh all these factors in when you see these opportunities. I think this one just felt slightly too restrictive.

  3. John @ Sprout Wealth May 9, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    I can definitely relate Tonya. As you know, I wrote about a similar situation last Friday where I was offered a job. Going through the pro/con process is huge as I find it helps remove the emotion a bit and helps you see the nuts and bolts of the situation. It’s definitely hard to turn down the money, especially when you work for yourself, but sometimes it just needs to happen as it wouldn’t be worth it in the long run.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      I like how you said you remove the emotion out of it. Also trying to remove what other people think too. You know yourself, and your wants and needs best!

  4. Barry @ Moneywehave May 9, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    I started off as a freelancer and back then I was single so it didn’t matter what it was or how much it paid I would take just about anything.

    Now being married and valuing my time much more I would probably really think about jobs that didn’t pay well as my time investment alone might not make it worth while.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:31 PM

      We single people value our time too…because hopefully I won’t be single forever so I need time to meet someone. :)

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:39 AM

      I’ll have to go check that out! :)

    2. J. Money May 9, 2014 at 9:01 PM

      Hahahhaa.. now THAT is good $hit right there, boy… Nice find ;)

    3. Mr. Minsc May 11, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      I think we’re on to something here. Personal finance bloggers should start writing for The Onion. Financial advice under the veil of satire. The defences of the typical consumer would be completely flanked. ;)

  5. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life May 9, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    $16 and hour for something as specialized as video editing is crazy. I get paid more for babysitting kids while they sleep.

    I recently turned down a personal assistant gig after finding out it was $13/hour. I think knowing (and demanding) your value is essential, especially in the freelance world.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:41 AM

      Exactly Stefanie. I know there are other freelance opportunities out there that pay more, are more interesting, etc. I feel like I’d be “settling.”

  6. Slackerjo May 9, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    I used to dog sit for people. I did not charge a lot of money because the dogs were super well behaved. I gave up the work because living in another person’s house for a week or two was difficult. Lumpy beds and broken appliances were just a few of the annoyances. Most of the people I worked for were nice but very disorganized and I spent hours and hours looking for things, simple things like toilet paper or a broom or laundry soap. I cut my finger at one place and spent 30 minutes looking for a band-aid (I found them 2 days later by accident, next to some wine glasses in the cupboard) After a while I had to bring more and more of my things to the other person’s house just to maintain my sanity. The work was just not worth the aggravation anymore so I gave it up.

    Worse client – my own brother. His dogs are wonderful but his house was such a disaster that I spent all my free time addressing one urgent problem after another. Like any job I did learned something, home ownership is not for me.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 1:02 PM

      ha ha! Reminds me of the time my friend had a side dog sitting business and asked me to fill in. The owners and the dogs were super high maintenance. Like allergies, anxiety, other issues. ugh! I had to stay the night and the dogs howled until I let them sleep in the same bed with me, then I had a rash all over my arms in the morning from the hair. Guess that wasn’t for me either. :)

  7. E.M. May 9, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    I’m so glad you decided it wasn’t worth it for you, and for knowing your value! This is an important lesson I’m learning. Unfortunately, I’ve been in admin jobs since graduating college, and I haven’t even made as much as you were offered. This is why I am interested in freelancing. In my own situation, it wouldn’t take much to get up to what I was being paid previously. If I did take a full time job, I might be limiting my earning potential. At least part time offers flexibility, but I don’t blame you for being worried about turning down higher paying opportunities.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      You have to weigh all the pros and cons. In your current situation, living in a new city, if something like this was presented I’d take it just to get my foot in the door in a new city, getting to know people, etc. You have to work around what works best for you!

  8. Crystal May 9, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Most of my hustles and regular jobs end up paying like crap, lol. Blogging and blog advertising have been the only things that I have turned into solid money ($4500+ a month). My last day job was $35,000 a year (so $2200 take home a month) and all of my side hustles have paid between $100-$1000 a month.

    The only one I truly regret was working in the local used book store since the owner was crazy and would berate his $7/hr employees until we cried. I lasted 6 weeks and quit the first time he started biting into me since I had already told him that it was unacceptable when he did it to his other people and that I didn’t need the work.

    I’m actually enjoying my current side hustle more than most – pet sitting (Crystal’s Cozy Care). I’ve only been doing it for about 10 weeks, but I made $1200 in March and $400 in April (no big holidays like Spring Break). May looks like it will be $600 and I have jobs lined up for June already too. Heck, I have one job for someone’s honeymoon that is booked for March 2015, LOL.

    Glad you had the option to turn down the part-time job. I think doing what you enjoy always trumps money. It’s just nice when what you enjoys makes good money too. :-)

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      “It’s just nice when what you enjoys makes good money too.” The holy grail of jobs! :) Does this exist? :) Glad your side hustles have worked out great for you!

  9. Brian@ Debt Discipline May 9, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Totally agree with you Tonya, you have to draw a line in the sand on your value. If you were in a different financial position you might jump @ $16 an hour. I wouldn’t use the word regret, but I’m not making any where near $16 an hour with my blog. :)

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      I’ve never broken down the hours of what I make on my blog (time versus income). Yes I’d never turn down $16/hour if I was in a very bad financial situation.

      1. J. Money May 9, 2014 at 9:05 PM

        The last time I ran the numbers I made like $8/hr on my blog, haha… Maybe now it’s $12/hr but regardless it’s a good thing I don’t do it just for the money! :)

  10. Joe May 9, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Thanks for sharing your story. I agree that it’s not always about money. The job would be fun, but the rate is just too low. These days I pass up quite a few opportunities because I’m a stay at home dad. I just don’t have time to do everything.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      Time is just as important as money. It’s a balancing act for sure!

  11. Grayson @ Debt Roundup May 9, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Great article Tonya! You are right. I have undervalued myself in order to get a few freelance jobs, but then learned that I was doing more work than I was getting paid for. If I was in trouble, then I would take any job that paid. If you are not, then get one that meshes well with your goals and how much you should be paid.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      I have done that too in the past Grayson and I totally regret it. That’s why I weigh things like this so heavily.

  12. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich May 9, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    I wish I read this a month ago. I took on a job that was totally not worth the money, that I didn’t even need and it became the most stressful few weeks I can remember. And that little rock totally messed with the big rocks in my life too – from my main career to important family matters.

    It is definitely not all about the Benjamins.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      I did that too before Mel when I did a short stint at The Container Store. It was hell. I was so happy when I stopped working there!

    2. J. Money May 9, 2014 at 9:06 PM

      Are you still there, or did you end up going back?? Sucky sounding :(

      1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:32 PM

        aw hell no! I think I was only there about two months. I can’t even go into the store now. :)

  13. Shannon @ The Heavy Purse May 9, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    You’re absolutely right, Tonya – it’s not always about the Benjamins. I find that I undervalue myself too and the only person you hurt is yourself. And I find when you seriously undervalue your skills and talents, you not only don’t enjoy the work (and probably don’t do your best work), you can become resentful too. All things you don’t need and fortunately are in a position to stay true to your actual worth. Good for you!

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:33 PM

      I agree that it’s easy to resent any kind of work you’re doing for too low of an amount. That stuff eats away at you over time.

  14. Kassandra May 9, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    I think fear of losing income motivates many, especially who are self-employed to take on positions or assignments that are below our market value or not a good fit for us. But, as you said, you don’t do any good to yourself by undervaluing your talents/abilities in exchange for money.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:34 PM

      So true. I’ve done that as a freelancer. But that’s why having an efund (a huge one) is so important to me. It’s a nice to have padding just in case.

  15. @freepursue May 9, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    That’s why FI is so powerful. The freedom to choose helps us clarify what we really want. No matter what people say, scarcity makes you focus on the short term. Having real financial security makes you forego smaller short term opportunities that are “OK” because you can hold out for what you really want.

    1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:35 PM

      Couldn’t have said it better myself!

    1. J. Money May 9, 2014 at 9:07 PM

      I love your blog name! Haha….

    2. Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 9, 2014 at 9:35 PM

      Thank you for coming all this way to read this Heather! :)

  16. Marie @ Gen Y Finances May 10, 2014 at 5:48 AM

    I have never ever regretted taking a part time job or side hustle just because i wanted to earn a little extra money. It helps me a lot to be mature enough, to never dependent on my family and I learned from it. It also helps me improve my skills.

  17. Leaving Mediocrity May 10, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Early in my career, I had a former colleague contact me and ask me to quote some consulting work for him and his new company. At the time I had done very little consulting work and I was having a hard time coming up with what I thought was a proper valuation for my time and skill set. I also wanted to cut him a break from a price standpoint because of our relationship.
    When I came back with the quote he gave me a great piece of advice that I have remembered to this day. He said “I appreciate that you are trying to cut me a break on the price, but if I go back to our board with this number they are going to think you are charging less because you are unqualified or inexperienced.” It was a wakeup call that companies will infer things about your ability and experience based on what you charge in relation to others in your industry. Sometimes when you try to be competitive in pricing you can actually be doing yourself a disservice and lose jobs because of it.

    1. J. Money May 14, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      BAM! What a smart (and nice!) coworker to share that with you! And you’ll never forget it now, so thanks for sharing it with US! :)

  18. Kim May 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    Ha, I was one of the ones who said you should take it! I do get your logic and I totally understand after turning down a low paying gig myself recently. It’s good to value what you’re worth and be in a place where you can turn down work. I’m sure the right thing will come along or it won’t and you’ll know you’re already in the right place.

  19. NZ Muse May 10, 2014 at 11:04 PM

    I don’t know what you make but being in media I can take a punt. I also know you live in LA which is at least as expensive as Auckland and no way could you live on $16/hr.

    1. J. Money May 14, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      I liked that article of yours :) I always think about mowing lawns and earning money outdoors when I’m doing my own. But then whenever I run the numbers and try to make it worth it I usually stop thinking about it, haha… So great you were able to actually do well!

  20. Nick Loper May 12, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    Side Hustlers of America unite!

    1. J. Money May 14, 2014 at 3:49 PM

      Fancy seeing you here ;)

  21. anna May 12, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    That’s a great conclusion, Tonya, with both not taking the job and not undervaluing yourself. It seemed restrictive to future opportunities – glad you made that call!