Selling Time: Personal Deflation in a Stagnant Economy

Random comment first: You might have noticed some issues on this blog recently and I’ve been trying to fix it. It’s going to take some time but browsing in general should not be affected. The remaining issue left to fix are the missing feature images.

So anyhow, a former colleague made a comment some many days ago regarding how workers in stagnant economies create personal deflation through personal growth—a phenomenon especially stark in such economies where a raise is hardly possible.

Regardless of how stagnant an economy is, humans grow and improve over time. Someone who is made to do 5 assignments in 2 hours every day will likely over time, be able to finish that same work in an hour (for example). While one might see the reward as monetary payment for an hour of work + an hour of free time, things are not as simple as that because work tends to gravitate toward the efficient, so this person who originally had 5 assignments to do, now has 10 “thanks” to their growth as a person and worker, and what used to take 4 hours can now be completed in 2.

In growing economies, the worker could be rewarded with higher salary but in stagnant economies, where raise is unlikely, workers will probably just receive a “thank you” and that’s it.

Initially, I had thought she was referring to company employees since these are the people who trade their time for salary. Regardless of how quickly you get your job done, the company has already paid for your time, so it only makes good financial sense for them to keep you as occupied as possible during the duration they have the right to access your skills.

I suggested to her that people who want to be rewarded in relation to the amount of work done should consider freelance work. However, interestingly, she said that her comment was referring to her experience after a year as a freelancer. Based on what I gathered, she appears to be referring to clients who often make changes to assignments when she completes them before time. What was supposed to be an additional hour of free time for her to take on other assignments, became a time for her clients to make changes to their original request.

I can see why it happens as clients are probably used to the idea of purchasing people’s time. If I requested for you to submit my work in 3 days, I automatically assume the 3 days are reserved for my request, and if you have it done in 1 day, I still have access to 2 more days of your time which you originally reserved for me anyway. So why not make use of it and make some changes?


If you’re a business owner or work for any businesses hiring freelancers, please understand that when you give people 3 days to complete a job, they don’t necessarily use those 3 days to work on it. When I get an assignment to submit in 3 days, I would assess how long I need to finish it. If I only need 1 day, I might not even touch it till the 3rd day so I can work on other assignments with tighter schedule. And if I complete on the first day, it could mean I have other work on the remaining 2 days or it just so happens I decided to work on your request first.

Freelancers are technically business owners as well and have the imperative to protect themselves, but I do find it tough to raise prices for jobs I enjoy doing (as long as the pay is reasonable). After all, I look at business negotiations in two ways: Whether I need you more or you need me more. The one who needs the other party less has greater negotiating power.


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