Lucre, not always filthy, by Ben Jeapes


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I’m going to try not to rant – self control being a fruit of the Spirit, and all that – but I’ve just parted company with a possible client over mismanaged expectations regarding payment for my services. As in, they didn’t want to make any until the royalties came rolling in.

I bear at least some of the blame for letting things get as far as they did. I’d been told right at the start that money was tight, but I do believe in giving a free consultation like any tradesman. But, there is a point where consultation turns into work.

So, I want to address the feeling of guilt that Christian authors might feel about requiring payment. After all, our writing is part of our ministry, right? Or (this being a purely secular project) then it’s at least part of our servant witness, right? And our ministry / witness is self-sacrificing, right?

Now, yes, of course, there are times I’ve done – and still do – work for mates rates, or less. There are cash-strapped worthy causes out there. I’ve even been known quietly to write an invoice off. And yes, I do think of my Christian witness; the impression I might be making and whether I can be said to be giving glory to God. It’s purely subjective, there are no fixed rules and it’s my assessment of my situation. The customer does not get input into whether I feel I can afford to do something for free.

So, here are three particular reasons, in no particular order, why you should get paid and not just rely on God to come up with the goods.

One, the labourer is worthy of their hire. This phrase, or similar, comes up in the Bible too many times to give verse links, which kind of makes the point on its own. One particular time, though, is when Jesus sends the disciples out on their first mission, taking no money and living in faith. Even then, he expects them to live off something.

Two, it gives you a contractual relationship with your client. Does that sound worldly? Well, if so then good – it was meant to. I used to run my own publishing company and I learnt the hard way not to get work for free. I tried to work with people that I thought would all share the vision and join me in working for peanuts or less. Suppliers were … well, flaky. Very good at their job but hard to pin down. They stuck to their own timetable, not to mine, and couldn't be pinned down to delivery dates. And why should they? They were doing me a favour so I was on their timetable. My work went straight to the back of the queue if something more remunerative and urgent came in.

And, it's two-way. You are better able to tell if you're being taken for a ride, and to apportion your time for this task. If you find they're giving you too much work for the time paid, you have more leverage than if you're just doing them a favour.

Three, there are people who do this for a living, and I’m not going to undercut them. That really would not be a good witness. For events, I take the Society of Authors’ guidelines as a starting point. For writing, even though I'm not a member of the NUJ, I start with theirs. Both have been worked out by people who have been making a living this way much longer than I have.

Money is mentioned a lot in the Bible – doormats, never.

Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of eight novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer. www.benjeapes.com

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