Thursday, May 17, 2012

Money is Funny, I Think

I just earned actual cash from a graphic design project, and it got me thinking about money.

There are days when I think we'd all be better off if we didn't exchange money, if we exchanged goods and services instead. Bartering is the way to go, I think, sometimes.

I was out of the design business for a year or so, and my recent re-entry has been on a strictly volunteer basis with the exception of a job I completed just today. I'm OK with that because of the nature of the projects—a community orchestra and public school music groups. I've done some signs and business cards for a profitable music store, but I earned valve oil and a discount on an alto recorder for those jobs.

When I branched out from Husband's business and started finding work of my own accord, I earned cash designing business cards (here are some examples, although most of these were pro-bono, come to think of it), and I designed some T-shirts and a plane logo back in the day (you can see them here, although again, some of them were pro-bono as well). I've done brochures and flyers and letterheads for cash, and I've done book covers for African trade beads, which are almost as good as cash when you think about it.  Mostly, my work is for free or for the cost of lunch or a cup of coffee or a bouquet of flowers or a box of candy or even just the satisfaction of a job well done for a well-deserving cause.

But work for cash? It's been a while. Spending a few hours designing a brochure for a new bed and breakfast has actually earned me money I can spend. I might spend it on lunch or a cup of coffee or a bouquet of flowers or a box of candy, and this leads to my puzzle. In our culture, we find a certain affirmation in the money we receive for the work we do, and that's not such a bad system. Cash certainly comes in handy when the bills are due.

But picture someone like me spending money I have earned on things like lunch or coffee or treats—I could very likely be enjoying those things alone. Now picture someone like me "spending" my bartering payments—the lunch and the coffee and the treats—I'm more likely to be enjoying those things with another person, an actual flesh-and-blood human being sharing a table with me, and conversation and smiles and furrowed brows and tears and worries and joys.

When the check I have earned arrives, I'll be pleased and will take it to the bank. That moment will provide a certain level of satisfaction, but it won't begin to compare with the longer lasting satisfaction that comes with sharing a project with someone who pays you with their costly time, their precious thoughtfulness and their treasured personal stories.

Yep, money is funny. It's also a little cheap, I think

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