Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

“And when we forego a panel or a keynote or a book chapter or media appearance because it is not paid, we will reinvest that time into our own work, reclaiming not only our time but our worth.”

Journalists accept that time is treated like our least valuable asset — that others will abuse it, that we must relinquish it to the whims of editors, and that inconsiderate sources and aggressive publicists will squander it.

Most of us don’t think twice about cancelling plans with loved ones, staying at work overnight, waiting three hours for someone with whom we had an appointment, or cloistering ourselves during a long weekend to finish that feature we’ve been working on for months.

I believe that will all change in 2018. And women of color in journalism will lead the way.

But first, a hat tip to Rep. Maxine Waters for providing the most succinct and emboldening example of how to reclaim one’s time. She inspired memes, hashtags, Halloween costumes and thinkpieces with her emphatic “Reclaiming my time” phrase during a tense hearing.

Millions of women of color watched the video and nodded approvingly. Reclaiming our time is a tenet of our personal self-care. But we have been loath to use it as a professional strategy. That’s especially true for women of color in journalism. Instead of reclaiming our time, we stretch it, bend it, multiply it, and compartmentalize it in the service of media entities that are often openly hostile to our ideas, sometimes even our very existence.

But the cauldron boiled over in 2017. And 2018 will see many more of us reclaiming our time as professionals.

We will decide how to spend our time at work, discarding meaningless leads or half-formed ideas just to appease a colleague, editor, or valuable source. We will decide when to hoard our time for worthwhile and necessary enterprise stories, to do work that satisfies us and moves the coverage forward. We will decide who to splurge our time on, by mentoring more young talents and seeking out quality mentors for ourselves. We will invest our time in ourselves by becoming more technical, mastering analytics or coding, learning social audio or video animation. We will reclaim our time by doing all the things we’ve been putting off because we kept giving our time away for free.

In 2018, we will learn to monetize our time.

We will do this by registering as LLCs if we’re freelancers, by launching independent projects supported by crowdfunding and grants, by bypassing traditional gatekeepers like book agents, talent agencies, studio heads, and contest judges to just get to work. We’ll think about (and hopefully enjoy) the accolades after the work is done.

A bunch of us will probably leave traditional media and take a leap towards our destiny by starting our own media companies. (I did when I founded my production company this year.) Some of us will finally write that novel or that script, launch that podcast or start researching that documentary. We’ll also find women whose work we believe in and support it.

Most critically, we will no longer work for free, out of guilt or obligation or feeling inadequate or needing to earn our place, our status, or our merit. Whatever we do will be because we want to, and that will be enough. We will practice saying, “What’s the rate for that?” and “My fee for that is ___” and “Is there an honorarium for that?” and “Do you cover travel and accommodations?”

And when we forego a panel or a keynote or a book chapter or media appearance because it is not paid, we will reinvest that time into our own work, reclaiming not only our time but our worth.

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams is the founder and CEO of Lantigua Williams & Co., a podcast and film production company.

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