Respect Your Business

“I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them, so I got rich and gave back. To me, that’s the win-win.” — JAY Z

Tonight, I had a business contact ask me if I could volunteer as a photographer for an event that the very established nonprofit he works for is hosting. I had to decline.

Two years ago, I did some free photography for them. Two years ago, I was an amateur. Two years ago, it was a side hustle. Two years ago, I had two years less experience. Today, I have a fairly full schedule and bookings 13 months down the road. I’ve been paid to photograph top educational institutions, world-renowned events, and multi-millionaires with hit television shows (ok, just one TV star but she dope enough to be five separate ones). I have talent, my equipment is expensive, and I’m always working to get better. I respect myself enough to charge.

Do I volunteer still? Certainly. But I do it for my organizations and, even then, there is a limit. What I do, be it photography or consulting, is a business. Your business is a business. Jeff Bezos’ business is a business. The squeegee man’s business is a business. Exposure is all well and good but now, as opposed to investing time in exposure for my businesses, I’m investing it in exposing businesses to the world.

Mentees don’t choose their mentors, charities don’t choose their philanthropists, and organizations don’t choose their volunteers. That’s not me saying “Don’t ask.” I’m not offended that I was asked. I am honored. And, if I would’ve said “Yes” but didn’t get asked, that is worse than a “No.” But it’s an organization that I will give my time to in exchange for some of their budget.

Make knowing your worth a priority.


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