Every so often I get to talk to someone I haven’t spoken to in a while. Invariably they ask me what I am up to for work these days. Apart from COVID (and politics) there is not a lot else to cover. I tell them how things changed overnight following the first lockdown but that I am as busy as ever and I go on to talk about the mix of things that I am doing.
Depending on whether it is a video or voice call, you can see or hear the cogs going round in their heads. Soon they get round to the question they have been mulling over, which is ‘are you getting paid to do this?’
The truth is that I get paid for some work, quite handsomely in some cases, while not for others. I tell them this. In many ways this is no different for most of us. Even when we work in fully paid employment there are times when we are earning our money and times we are not.
Since setting up on my own, my work has been a mixture of commercial and voluntary work though I guess that this is not behind their question. The implication I take is that paid work has value, which is why people will pay for it, while unpaid work does not.
Yet, in many ways the opposite is true. Paid work is essential to pay the bills and put food in my stomach but it is work that others want me to do. Unpaid work on the other hand is free from the shackles imposed by the need to pander to the money. I am free to do whatever I want, what interests me most and what I think can add value to society. I have always enjoyed my work but I am no longer a wage slave.
The way I look at it now is that all of my work is paid. Some jobs give me the money that enables me to do those that can’t pay. My paid work liberates me to do the unpoaid. I cannot do one without the other and so they are part of the same equation.
When asked the question in future, I am just going to say ‘yes, I am paid.’