This last problem is particularly challenging for people in the so-called creative industries. We all know that great ideas do, on occasion, come easily or quickly, but according to the laws of accounting, this idea would be worth less than something we labored on for tedious weeks, whatever it's worth or potential impact in the marketpale
I’m not sure I have a convincing solution to this challenge (I hope Adrian and Rob over at zeusjones have it figured out), but I came across another interesting option in an academic paper of a former student. While the analogue doesn’t quite solve the problem of how to value easy work, it’s somewhat comforting to learn it’s been around for a good long time.
The situation was a famous debate between the painter James Whistler and the critic John Ruskin. In a particularly nasty review of an 1877 exhibition containing Whistler’s work, Ruskin takes particular exception to Whistler’s “Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket”
"I have seen, and heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face."Whistler, in turn, decided to sue Ruskin for libel. The Judge at the London trial asked Whistler how he could dare ask for such a large sum for a work that took only two days to paint. Whistler answered that that the fee was not for the two days but for “the knowledge of a lifetime.”
If only we could all get paid for this acquired knowledge. And in some ways we do. It’s why more experienced or senior staffers bill out at a hire rate than more junior ones. But it still leaves us in the trap of billing for time.