Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Day's Work for a Day's Pay

What is a "normal" amount to receive for a day's pay? Is a day 8 hours long? Do you break it into an hourly wage? Do you add your benefits package pro-rated for one day? As a self-employed person, I set my wage, I pay for my own benefits. This is a difficult assignment. What can the market bear; what are others charging in my neighborhood? Should that matter? What are their degrees? What are parents willing to pay for piano lessons for their child? What is reasonable and true?

According to, the average daily wage today is $15.00/hour, but it also states that a day's wage is $70. The figures don't match. This means a person was not working 8 hours but closer to 5 hours, or that the hourly wage is really closer to $10. If I take 8 hours times the $15 rate, I get $120.

According to Wikipedia, the median income of the US was $49,777 in 2010. This covers ALL jobs across all levels of education and experience. It also doesn't match the other figures mentioned. $15/hour is $31,200 per year, or $49,777 is almost $24.00 per hour. And I have no idea whether benefits are part of these figures.

I was asked my salary again today. The person didn't ask it directly. They first casually asked how many students I'm teaching. Then, later in the conversation, they asked how much I'm charging these days. All innocent questions. I have always side-stepped these with "I teach full-time, I teach part-time, or my studio is full enough for me", and "oh, are you interested in lessons; I have a few openings." I think it would be a shocker if I asked what their salary was, although men around me are much more likely to discuss their salaries, as a general rule.

My husband says I'm overly sensitive to these questions and it is part of my business to share what the cost of lessons are to potential students. I agree. I am inclined to believe that this was not a potential studio family asking, however.

And so the next question I have to ask myself is what is a good day's wages? I have an advanced degree and tons of experience. When I'm asked to judge for a day, what should I expect for a day's work? Some expect that I am being given a stipend and that some of my judging is to encourage the next wave of musicians, a "pay-it-forward" mentality.

Judging is and is not hard work. You must be a critical listener, fast on your feet, so-to-speak, You want to be amiable, courteous, and able to discern a child's nerves. I am asked to understand without asking the student whether they have put their best effort into their performance or whether it was slung together on a whim a week before the event. I am being asked to write my thoughts coherently, with good penmanship, in 5 minutes or less, and move to the next student.

On the flip side, it is not physical labor. It is not as dirty or difficult as waitressing, nursing, or being an auto mechanic. It's not like the Dirty Jobs on television by any means.

A professional in law works for $250/hour, a director of sales is pulling in over $120/hour, a waitress friend of mine at a really nice restaurant makes tips in excess of $300/for a Friday night shift and is often working about 5 hours. A friend at Kohls department store makes $10/hour. The girl at the Kwik Trip is making minimum wage and has to clean the restroom.

I received a possible judging assignment in the mail today. I have to decide whether or not I wish to sign on for this position. It is four days for $700.00. They are 8 hour days. Is this a fair wage? 32 hours is about $22/hour. This is $2/hour lower than the median income rate. It seems decent, but not glamorous. The organization needs capable judges, but has to charge a manageable fee to the students who will take the exam that I will adjudicate.

I've decided to stop comparing. I will now try to refuse to compare my salary, my hourly rate, my life, my house, or anything else the world would like me to covet with anyone else. That's when my trouble starts, ya know? Try to measure up? I lose. Try to rank my playing, my children, my grocery bill, my job against anyone else's? Not going there. I just can't do it any more. I just don't want to measure myself anymore.

In some ways I think it's crazy that I'm debating with myself over getting this kind of money to do what I love; I get to sit with kids and talk about music and then listen to theirs. It's $700 for goodness sake! I'm going to say yes, in the current economic situation. What an insult, some will say, and roundly put it down, with a snort. I know others that would love to make so much.

Where do you stand, not that I'm asking what you make....


  1. That really gets me thinking. Money seems to be a necessary evil in this world.

  2. Hi Michael, it's so sad, isn't it? Capitalism, BAH!

  3. I just found your blog and I love it. My biggest problem is the disconnect between what families pay, and what I earn after taxes. I know that everyone pays taxes, but when I tell parents my hourly rate, the surely don't take into account that almost 50% goes to taxes and health insurance.


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