By: Sarah Sloane (originally posted on FearlessPress.com July/2011)
New educators, there is one simple fact that I want – nay, I NEED you to understand: nobody gets rich from teaching about sex and kink. Even the most successful sex educators in the US aren’t what most of us would call “wealthy”, and the great majority of us – even those that do this on a full time basis – aren’t making a substantial income out of our teaching & writing. Sex education is not something that is culturally valued in our society, and without that cultural sense of importance we will likely find that most organizations & stores will be unable to pay us what they (and we!) wish they could.
Now that my pessimism has been aired, let me tell you what’s important to understand: as an educator, your business sanity will become contingent on your ability to balance your own desires and needs with the ability of the group that you’re teaching for to compensate you. Yes, we’d all love to get paid hundreds of dollars for every class we teach; and yes, we’d all love to be given a room in a five-star hotel and unlimited room service at the events we attend…but those are highly unlikely.
Novice educators – you will have to pay some dues. Until you have a proven track record of classes on your CV, understand that, for many groups, you are a genuine risk to bring in. The more prestigious the organization that is inviting you to speak, the more that they have to lose if you do a poor job – and that can be anything from speaking offensively to giving unsafe information. What this means financially is that our initial forays into presenting may require us to pay our own way to and from the event, cover our expenses, and occasionally even be asked to pay for our own registration in full. Is this bad? It depends on your outlook. If you see it as an investment in building your resume, it may be a perfectly acceptable (and perhaps even desirable) situation that you’ll want to take advantage of. However, if money and time are a challenge and the benefits don’t outweigh the expense, it’s likely to not be worth it to you – and if you opt to do it, you’ll need to check your resentments about the terms at the door before you walk in, or else you can be assured that you won’t be invited back.
That does not, however, let the organization off the hook for being respectful. Even if you’ve never presented before, your time and energy are valuable, and acknowledgement of that is an (unfortunately) unspoken part of the exchange. Some organizations who are financially poor will write you a thank you card, or bring cookies; I’ve had groups surprise me with a gift of some lovely yarn (I’m a notorious knitter), a bag of healthy snacks and bottled water to keep me going, or even passing the hat at the end of the meeting to help me cover my transportation costs. And honestly? The groups that go to that extent of trying to say thank you in meaningful ways are the ones that most educators clamor to teach at, because they know that their work is both welcome and appreciated.
When you approach (or are approached by) a group or event, make sure that you know what you need to get in order to feel good about the agreement, and be ready to state it clearly.
Once the group says “Yes, we’d like to bring you in”, it’s time to have the conversation – and I suggest you have it in writing, and that you follow up with a final agreement email. You’ll want to make sure that your responsibilities are detailed – the number of classes you’ll teach, when you will arrive & depart, what you will bring with you (handouts, resources, assistants, etc), and any other tasks or appearances that you’ve been asked to fulfill. You will also want to detail what the event is offering you in compensation – registration, hotel, expenses, pick up & drop off at the airport, meals, etc. The more clearly that you can list these and ensure agreement, the easier (and friendlier) that both you and the organization will be able to communicate prior to and during the event, and the happier everyone will be about the experience.
The goal of the business side of the negotiations is twofold: it’s to make sure that everyone’s expectations are managed – which avoids unnecessary confusion and drama – and to make sure that a good relationship can be built between the educator and their community. When that’s taken care of, the end result is an event that is a pleasure to teach at, and invitations to do so again in the future – which makes everyone happy!