The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Begging, Busking or Bartering - and Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres - Episode 15

Asking for money has never been an easy thing to do.

It can feel like begging, even if I am actually providing goods or services of equal or higher value than the money being requested.

I'm not totally sure where it comes from, but there's no doubt I would feel naturally happier in an environment or society where people exchanged time and skills in such a way that everyone benefits – not just those with the most power, or biggest bank balances.

However, that's not the world we live in, and I'm now too old and tired to have the passion, naivety, and energy of youth, to go out and try and change the world to fit my ideals.

The simple fact is, I need money to survive. And even if I might, possibly, find ways to exist without it on my own, I also have a family to support.

But over the years I have also become corrupted by it and am now loathe to give up comforts and conveniences like a comfy bed and an indoor toilet. Thus I need to find ways to pay for these luxuries.

Nevertheless, being self employed means I am having to ask for money all the time.

It's not like working for someone else where you agree a wage when you join the company and then only have to think about it on occasions where a pay rise might considered. Every single customer and every single job has to be costed, negotiated and invoiced. And if you get it wrong you could lose the lot.

It never really gets any easier – I always feel I'm fighting against my natural instinct just to help a fellow human rather than charge them a fee for my time, energy and skills.

So I always overcompensate. It doesn't matter how much I charge, I make damn sure the client will gain far more than just the monetary value from the transaction. If they are merely satisfied, rather than pleased or delighted, then I begin to worry I haven't given enough.

This has all become vastly more complicated in my head since the arrival of Covid-19, the hibernation of my real-world photography business, and my attempt to see if it's possible to earn a living via online engagements.

The cornerstone of my plan for moving forward is my weekly, Facebook Live podcast, Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres.

Here, I am giving away my knowledge and expertise for free in a hopefully entertaining and useful way.

On the one hand it helps satisfy my natural desire to help other people, but at the same time I'm hoping to build a following and eventually find ways to monetise it – perhaps through things like memberships and online classes. But certainly in ways in which everyone who comes on board will feel they gain far more from than the fee they pay.

But in the meantime, what about the podcast? Can I ask for donations and support for that?

I'm not putting it behind a pay-wall – it's there for free for anyone who wants it.

But it still takes up at least 2 days of my week, every week, to create and promote.

When Lockdown began, and I was still trying to quell the panic and work out what to do next, I saw various musician friends doing online live concerts using Paypal as a tip jar. If you have a Paypal account it's not complicated to set up a link that allows people to simply and easily transfer money online, either from their own Paypal account, or via their credit/debit card.

This wasn't begging – this was busking.

It's the same way an entertainer can set up on the street – whether it's fire-breathing and acrobatics, or strumming a guitar singing all your favourite hits from the 60s and 70s – you can throw a few pounds or pennies into their hat to help support them and thank them for their time and entertainment.

So I set up, placed the address on my podcast screen, and for the past 3 months have pointed it out a couple of times per show for anyone who would like to lob something my way.

I had no idea whether it would work or not. It's not compulsory and most people are used to not paying for things that come via their screens.

Well, they do – they are still paying their TV license, or Netflix or Amazon subscriptions, and for their phone and internet connections – but it just doesn't feel like it.

I have had a small handful of contributors, and one or two of them have been particularly generous, but we're not talking at levels where I can think of early retirement, or even paying the gas bill.

But I'm also aware that some people get a little freaked out by donating when they have no guide as to how much.

Is £5 or £10 or £50 way too much, or insultingly small?

Each person has a different idea depending on their income, generosity, and life experiences. But perhaps a few/some/many will be so concerned about "getting it wrong" that it's easier not to do anything at all.

Not too long ago, I came across, which seems to offer up a solution to this.

You set up an account and it has an easy to use page where people can turn up and donate the equivalent of a cup of coffee – averagely about £3 in the UK. And there's an option for those who are feeling a bit more generous and wish to donate multiple cups of coffee – 2, 5, 20 or whatever someone chooses to put in the box.

So I've decided to give this a go. In last night's podcast I swapped the Paypal link to

Nobody went for it, but then there have been plenty of weeks when no one has donated via Paypal either, so it's too early to tell.

I think this is a better way of going about it. It does feel a bit more like busking than begging.

But I am still doing psychological and emotional acrobatics to allow myself to put anything there at all - even though I don't doubt the quality of what I'm offering, or the benefits to those watching.

How does it make you feel when you see these links, or do you (or would you) use them yourself?

Do leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.


0:00 - Welcome to episode 15
0:10 - New webcam
1:06 - What's coming up
3:22 - All about The Artists at The Nail Factory
29:02 - Using artificial light to emulate natural light
44:29 - Critique of images submitted to the Facebook Group, "Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres"
1:22:27 - Coming up next week

If you've not done so already, please subscribe to my YouTube channel - – to help me build the numbers.

And, or course, if you would like to submit a photo for feedback, or just ask a photography related question, then do join my Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres Facebook group and I will put it into the following podcast:


Pat said...

I have thought for some time that it would be perfectly reasonable to have a charge for anyone who specifically asks for your help - in addition to other donations. Haven't caught 15 yet -just read the above

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - it's an odd thing - I full accept that in this world there is no problem charging for your time and skills. Except that on some deeper level it's never really felt right for me

Eryl said...

I know exactly how you feel, I hate the money part of my work, and have never really got to grips with what to charge. I'm lucky in a way because I wouldn't find myself homeless or starving if I didn't earn anything, but I do need to make some money to get things like haircuts, shampoo, and replace socks with holes in them. It's also nice to be able to contribute to the larder and buy birthday/Christmas gifts for the people I love. Lockdown has seen me retreat from the world, normally I'd be working quite a bit at this time of year, running writing workshops, and would make enough to see me through the winter, but not this year.

I hope the coffee thing works for you, I've seen several artist's using it and would definitely chuck a few coffers into accounts of those whose work I've enjoyed or benefited from if I had the funds. I always feel really guilty not paying, which means I tend to avoid things like podcasts and tutorials by other artists unless I've had a good year earnings wise.

Kim Ayres said...

Eryl - please don't avoid the podcasts and tutorials just because money is a bit tight.

Firstly, everyone who puts stuff up for free knows full well that 95%+ of people are never going to contribute financially, so no one harbours a grudge against anyone who doesn't pay. It's not stealing to watch for free.

Secondly, and more importantly, we all know it's a numbers game. The more people who watch the more chance there is someone who will contribute.

For example, say 1% of people who consume throw a pound in the jar - then if 100 people watch, then that's worth a quid. But if 10,000 watch then that's worth £100.

The difficulty, then, is increasing the number of people who will watch - and this is where you can contribute in other ways than cash.

If you can recommend it to others, then that brings in more people.

Or if you comment and interact, it encourages others to comment and interact, which makes the whole experience more interesting for the producer and the other consumers. This in turn makes it more likely that others will find out about it, enjoy it and recommend it.

Even just being one of the statistics that says 47 people liked/watched this rather than 46, is still contributing to a perceived popularity that then influences more people to decide to give it a go.

So, Eryl, if you find it interesting, then just turning up is a form of support. And if you can comment even more so - I love to see comments on something I've written or broadcast - it helps me feel my voice isn't just disappearing into the void.

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