TAs Thriving: Tip #4 Communicate your rates and offer a professional discount

We all are struggling. And yes, even organizations struggle. But committing to resolving pay equity as a social justice issue is a challenge we can win. As we tackle it, despite the challenges, we are saying, I’ll take care of you.

My dear, sweet, working Teaching Artists,

Let them talk about us.

People sometimes do.

This is not going to be easy. But you are my hero.


Independent Teaching Artists, do you have questions about your contracts? You are not alone. #teachingartist #teachingartistlife #dramaticplayllc #contracts

♬ original sound – iamdramaticplay

I’ve enjoyed this video from fellow Maryland Teaching Artist Khaleshia Thorpe-Price, owner of Dramatic Play, and her son. They illustrate perfectly the power dynamic that I have experienced in contractual negotiations. There is little time to review the contract and ask our partners and clients questions.

Labor law classifications (independent contractor v. employee) impact budgets. Whether you started working for a new organization last week or worked there for 25 years, your contract and classification may change every year and even with every project.

We may love our freedom as independent contractors, but there is freedom in financial compensation. Overtime pay, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, employer payment of half of the social security and medicare taxes are on the table, and so much more! Stand together and ask for wages, benefits, and the most appropriate classification for each situation, in every community.

Let’s have each other’s back.

Stand together and stay committed to the goal of pay equity.

“Darling, I’ll take care of you.”

4. Communicate your rates and offer a professional discount.

This step is complex and may not be necessary for your collective. It is fitting to skip this step and take the position held during the Montgomery bus boycott.

We can no longer lend our cooperation to an evil system.

Martin Luther King in Stride Toward Freedom, page 51

What a great example of transformative collective organizing! Imagine us no longer lending our cooperation to the arts ecosystem. Do you accept your responsibility in the system? Are you complicit in social evils?

TAs must examine every situation and entity in every local community. It will be difficult to arrive at a collective agreement. It will take time.

If arts organizations, schools, or community centers do not have immediate funds to meet your rate, and you must lend your cooperation, offer a professional discount. 

They must know you expect them to reach the rates listed on the TA Pay Calculator on future projects. Your invoice detailing your rate with a professional discount becomes evidence and data they can share with leaders, funders, and boards when they’ve not included you at the decision-making table. Hopefully, you’ll receive an invitation soon!

Quality costs now and in the future. If they aren’t paying, you are donating. A donor acknowledgment letter doesn’t pay living costs, and living costs increase yearly, as does your rate!

In time, if their budgets can’t see your worth, stop working for them. Drastic, I know. But heck, they don’t deserve us if they can’t effectively include us and advocate for our worth when they are projecting budgets with their board, asking for money from their funders, and requesting support from their arts councils.

Let’s break out of our shells!

Come on out!

Once we can see our givens as contingencies, then we may have an opportunity to posit alternative ways of living and valuing and to make choices.

MAXINE GREENE, Releasing the imagination, page 23

Published by Jennifer Ridgway | Yard Dramas

Theatre Teaching Artist | activating artistry and moving the collective soul

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