Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

I Will Gladly Pay You Tuesday ...

Fresh when it gets here from Julie Barrett
Thursday, April 29, 2010

This via a friend. I've obscured the details, but essentially it was another one of these:

Hey, I have this great business idea, and talented people like YOU are just the type to help carry it forward. The only thing is, I can't pay you until the money comes in.

The problem, of course, is that the money rarely comes in. Or if it does, there's never enough to trickle down to the folks who do the work.

See, I did this when I was naive and hungry. I went to work for a small start-up. The owner was more interested in spending the money that came in on expensive toys the business didn't need than paying the people who did the work. He berated me when I left. Tried to make me feel like a fool for not respecting his vision and all that rot. I felt like a fool for sticking around as long as I did. I'm sure he ended up selling all those expensive toys for pennies on the dollar. That money could have been better invested in his business and the people working to make the business a success.

Don't get me wrong. I've done (and still do) plenty of pro bono and "for the love" projects. But I don't do them with the expectation of a paycheck. And I can't do the free stuff if I can't make a living somehow.

There seems to be this mistaken belief that creatives will do the work for free, or perhaps a few crumbs tossed their way. I hate to break it to these folks, but we have bills to pay just like everyone else. Someone has to pay for the electricity to keep this computer going, for the Internet so I can send my work to clients, for the house, the food ... you get the idea.

If your start-up idea is so fantastic that it'll rake in the dough, you should have little problem finding funding.

You'll have to pardon me if I sound overly cynical, but I've seen this happen time and time again. People have grand ideas, but no real vision for how to make that idea pay off. They expect to make their money off of the kindness of strangers. What happens when the strangers are broke?

I have the greatest respect for those who start a one or two-person business and work the long hours until they have enough money to bring in help. They're doing it right. And they're taking all of the risk instead of spreading that risk among those who can least afford it.

So forgive me if I ask to see a business plan. When the plan is "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday ..." Tuesday rarely comes.

Filed under: Life            


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