Asking for money

Hello! I really hope you are finding joy in everyday things and are keeping well.

In December my computer gave in and I tweeted about it. Someone asked if they could pay towards it. I said I didn’t have a Pateron or any other means to accept money. I wasn’t sure I was okay accepting money. I wrote about this on my Insta. Someone wrote in saying this:

I was thinking about it being uncomfortable asking people for money, and then I realised that in order to create great work, you need to not have to worry about daily expenses, and it also means having the tools to do your work. But I think asking people to pay you is confused with charity, which is reserved for the needy... but people have money to give for both things 

Taking money from people who appreciate your work, and the beauty you create, is one way that people show you that they care about your work and their way of saying it has an impact on them. 

Maybe you should think about giving people the chance to give you money if they want to (if they don’t, you can’t force them anyway)

It was this (and another person pushing me) that got me to start a

a/c where people can buy me a pizza(s) for $5 or more. When I first ran the idea by my mum she thought asking for money was a bad idea. I then ran it by my friend. I said, I do this work for myself and it feels wrong to ask for money though people often write back saying how much my work helps them and some have offered to pay. So after a lot of talking we concluded that giving but being averse to taking is also abandoning self, not having enough respect for one’s labour, not acknowledging people’s desire to paying thank you. That’s how this buymeacoffee thing started. It is also the only money I have made in January.

Recently when I was doing my morning pages in a random book, I found something I had written about money in 2016.

I grew up in a house where money was rarely talked about, especially when we were children. So when other kids would brag that their watch was for Rs 320, I thought that was wrong, ours never came with a price tag. When I found myself freelancing the awkwardness and shame that I associated with asking for money began to show. Also, I was constantly told that I was getting to do something I loved and it was okay not to make money. I also felt that they were doing me a favour by letting me illustrate and that’s why I should just take whatever they gave. But I really needed money, it didn’t feel good to depend on others.

“Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty.” - Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

People can often read into our desperation and insecurities and they sometimes use it against us. In short, I had little or no money in my 30s, I did work for no money or very little. It also meant I was scared to let go of projects and was scared of offending people who were offering jobs. I also thought maybe they’d see some merit in my work and would recommend me and give me more projects that would pay. Basically there was a lot of resentment.

In the years I lived in Delhi, I did make enough to pay for rent and more but did borrow from my parents from time to time. My mum has always insisted that I be financially independent & emotionally strong. I have always read it as, "Don't be financially dependent on a man." I am very careful about not having any man pay for me on dates, unless it is a small cake here or there. I never went to places I couldn’t afford.  And whenever I was out of money, my mother has made sure I had money especially in the early 8 years when  I started working independently. I have had to be careful with money & have  had a lot of financial support from my family. Something I never needed in my 20s because I had a salaried job and didn't know what to do with the money.

Things changed a bit in 2018. And I had a new found  confidence, I could say no to projects, I didn’t want to do stuff for free and I remember telling someone on a date that I was feeling super rich. He said, "Cool. You pay for dinner." When the bill arrived, I jumped for it. I didn't check anything, just read the amount. It was Rs 2500 or more. Now, I had felt poor in my head for a long time & I knew never to order alcohol in a restaurant. So without checking, I announced, "I am not paying for your alcohol." "Sure." He checked the bill and had the money ready. His drink was at ₹400. I felt so sheepish, I wanted to disappear. I offered to pay the full amount but he refused.  We decided on date no 2. By date no 2, I had shamed myself  a bit about being a "chindi" and had decided we would split the bill.  But when we were waiting for the bill, I really had to go do susu and told him  so and that we were splitting it and how sheepish I  felt about last time. He said, "Oh don't judge yourself so much, I am still sitting opposite you and my interest has only grown." When I came back, he had paid and refused to take money. All I could say was - thanks. 

I also remember reading a piece where a scriptwriter asked about how they approached payment amounts when working with production houses and them saying, “You should be to ready to get off the table.” I found it powerful but I also knew that this wasn’t for everyone. You can’t get off tables if that’s the only project you have and you need the project and the money. And there is also the worry of upsetting someone who has more power.

But when you are no more needy, you can stop abandoning yourself and bring your needs and wants to the table. But it isn’t always easy. I remember when I first started doing it, I was so nervous, I would negotiate the amount with my friends. Then someone online told me this story and I am not sure I completely believe this but it went on my pin board.

I also made myself a cheque of Rs one crore. I make nothing close to that but I tell myself that having money isn’t a bad thing. I would be able to do things without constantly worrying if I can afford it.

It isn’t like once I had a little money things changed. It was still difficult. I wondered about the rate and if people were laughing at me because the money I was asking was out of my aukaad. Doing anything for the first time is scary but as you continue doing it it gets better. I am still nervous when I send out that email about money but it is getting better.

Last year, I had made no money for the first 3 months and then in April, I was called to talk to students at a foreign university over Zoom. In the first email to me they had mentioned how much they were willing to pay for my time and what was expected out of me. Now that’s such good practice. I thanked them, they said, “Money is respect.”

Also last year when I got the grant, I had to start documenting the amount of time I
spent on the project. Though the grant amount was a fixed, documenting made me realise how much time I spend on Instagram enabling conversations, writing back and how much I spend researching and drawing and it made me feel it was important to honour my time. My budgets to clients changed after that.

I have also learned the hard way that I must not go as a fan girl while signing a work contract, it often means my negotiation power goes down. I am also telling myself that money is not a bad thing, it gives me independence and security.

And yes, brainstorming also must be payable. And there is no shame in quoting a price, if people can’t pay it isn’t about you. Not abandoning oneself feels good.

Recently, I put this up. Nothing came out of it but people wrote to me saying, “thank you for your courage.” I also decided that I will ask people to pay me if they wanted to interview me for their Phd proposals or art projects. For years I have given my time away for free. This time I asked them to pay whatever they thought was okay and they did though my It felt like a tiny victory.

As I end this I want to tell you, last Thursday I got a massage. I asked my friend about the price and they said it was Rs 400. I really enjoyed the massage and I thought Rs 400 was too little so I paid them Rs 1000. Just like us, others also want to live well and we have to put out in the world what we wish to receive.