This week, one of my colleagues asked me if I would edit a document he’s working on – and he offered to pay me to do it. I said that I would help with the edits but turned down the payment offer twice and we left the money issue unresolved. I’m still not sure what to do.
I feel a little strange accepting money from a friend for what I consider to be a favor. I help friends and colleagues with reading/editing requests whenever they ask, and thankfully my services are not popular enough that it’s become too time-consuming (I don’t advertise or anything). I’m certainly not a professional, but I have a natural ear and I can easily help out friends whose first language is not English. I even read for Kyle, who is an excellent writer, from time to time – it’s helpful just to have another set of eyes.
I actually used to consult on pieces of writing when I worked in my college’s writing center. That was primarily higher-level analysis of theses and arguments and such, not the kind of close editing that my colleague wants (and actually straight up editing is easier). So I was paid for this sort of work at one point in my life, but I’ve done plenty of it on a volunteer basis since. Other people are paid for editing all the time; I frequently see advertisements around campus from editors of various kinds of documents.
I’ve also had a friend offer to pay me for financial coaching, which I turned down – that is, I coached her on her finances but I didn’t accept any money. And it was really fun!
Part of my dilemma is that I have no idea how to value my time. My job is salaried (kind of) and I have no real limit on the expectation of my hours of work. I also have this nagging feeling that I shouldn’t be paid to do something I really enjoy, like editing and PF coaching. I guess that’s sort of crazy, to think that I should only be paid for things I’m not willing to do for free. I could ask what my friends who edit professionally charge/are paid per document/hour.
My other hesitation is that I don’t want to deal with the tax implications of being paid for this kind of work. I suppose this would be considered contract work, which means I’ll have to pay self-employment payroll as well as income taxes on it – just for a bit of cash! Kyle says that he refuses to go through that rigmarole for a small amount of money and in the past I wouldn’t have, but now that I know more about taxes I feel I can’t ignore this sort of thing.
However, something my colleague said when we were discussing the arrangement has made me reconsider my disinclination to accept money. He said he wanted to pay me so that I would focus and do a good job with the document (well, he said it in a less blunt way than that!). I can really understand that. Money, in addition to our friendship, is a string in the agreement and makes me less likely to flake or do a crappy job. It’s a way to ensure that my colleague gets what he asked me for, and of course I benefit as well.
I’m still not sure how I’ll resolve this particular situation, but I know that these are important questions I need to work through for my life and career.
When you do favors for friends, do you accept a monetary payment? How do you decide what your time is worth?
photo from Free Digital Photos