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Feb. 9, 2021

#3 | Knowing your worth with Bilal Bachir from De Kunstenbond

#3 | Knowing your worth with Bilal Bachir from De Kunstenbond

As freelancers, we often struggle to fully understand what we are invoicing for and what we are worth.

Our financial system works differently than when you work on payroll. We pay our own taxes, pension, and social securities. But besides the technical side of our finances, we often find ourselves in complicated positions when we are asked to work for less or even for free.

For today's episode, I've asked Bilal Bachir from De Kunstenbond to join me on the podcast and talk about knowing your worth.

Bilal is a board member of the Theater and Dance Department of De Kunstenbond in the Netherlands and teaches workshops for De Kunstenbond on knowing your worth/value to students of various Universities/Academies around the Netherlands. De Kunstenbond is a Union based in the Netherlands which is a Union for people working in the Arts.

In today's episode, we are diving into the art/dance world where Bilal sheds some light on what you should include in your worth, how you know what you are worth, how we need to fight the current system, and why a Union like De Kunstenbond is so valuable to you as a freelancer working in the Arts.

Today's episode is special to me as I myself am a freelance dancer that has encountered many incidents in which I was severely underpaid/undervalued.  The Freelancer Talk podcast started as a podcast for freelancers working in the arts but has since grown and expanded to all kinds of freelancers. I am aware that not all of our audience works in the Arts field but still urge you to listen to this episode as there is some general knowledge to be taken from. 

During the episode, Bilal mentioned the European Dancer's Passport. Check out here what it is and how you can get one if you are a freelance dancer!

Enjoy listening!

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Wouter: Hello, are you freelancers? Welcome back to a brand new episode of the freelancer talk podcast. I am your host Wouter Vertogen and today I have invited a very dear old friend of me to join me on the podcast to talk about knowing your worth, because I think that's a very it's a topic that is very valuable and very valid for a lot of us freelancers.

His name is Bilal Bashir and he's actually here in my house today, which I'm really excited about because I hate all these zoom interviews. So thank you for making, I mean, thank you for coming to my house Bilal!

Bilal: Happy to be here. 

Wouter: Yay. How are you doing during this lockdown? I don't know.

Like life is a bit like, Oh my God. 

Bilal: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think I'm going through the same thing that everybody's going through. Like it's just. You know, sometimes depressing and sometimes you just try to make the best out of it. Try to stay in shape, try to kind of keep life going wherever it's possible.

Wouter: Yeah. So for all of you Bilal is a freelance dancer actually just like me and we were in the same. Dance Academy awhile, long time ago already. So I mean, yeah, you're, you're for sure in the same position a little bit as me, like, you know, the dance world is not so thriving at the moment, I guess. If we can say it like that, but things will change, but anyway, You are a member of the Kunstenbond, which is like the union for the arts in the Netherlands.


Bilal: Exactly. Yeah. And I'm the, I'm a member of the board of the group theater and dance theater and dance. Yeah. So the consultant is sectioned in several groups and I'm in the board of a theater and dance. 

Wouter: Okay. So yeah. I know there was a lot of freelancers who sometimes are I, I, sorry. I know there was a lot of freelancers who work in the arts who are listening to this podcast, but also there's a lot of other types of freelancers.

So I do want to say that's because of course, we're going to talk a little bit about the arts. We're going to talk about theater and dance. So this podcast is very much intended for. Freelancers working in the arts, but of course it is still a topic that is valuable for everybody to listen to. And why I invited you on the podcast is because you work for the Kunstenbond.

So the union of the arts and you give these workshops on knowing your worth. And I just wanted to ask you, like what, what, what are these workshops actually like? What. What is this workshop about? 

Bilal: Well, those workshops are basically focused on teaching everyone, well we focus on the students. Let's say like the students that are about to leave school or about to go into their stage year they need to learn the basic rules of what is going on outside in the.

In the working field. Yeah. And they need to understand what their worth is because usually, like, we tend to. Kind of sell under worth, and also that's, what's being used against us. So, you know, we focus really on telling them, okay, look, there's a certain worth to your work and to your experience that you have, and you need to find out where to look up this information and how to sell yourself in the right way.

Wouter: Yeah. So when we talk about worth, what is worth, is it just. The money, some that you are also like that you are talking and that you're informing people about, or is it also, I don't know what belongs under worth for you because there is always also probably like a psychological idea behind worth, but 

Bilal: Well you can go really deep.

Yes. Well, mostly we focus of course what it boils down to, to the money because that's. That's what's then in the end really important for you to stay alive. Yeah. But it, it goes also about like, we focus also on experience of course, on like, what, what does that mean? Like everything that you've gone through already as a dancer or whatever, like a artists entrepreneur, like what if whatever you have.

Collected experience in is important to what you are worth as in your business. Yeah. Like not, not necessarily talking money, but like what, what words do you bring to your field? 

Wouter: That goes deeper than I think, you know, like what is the actual worth of what you're bringing, but I agree with you.

I think. I mean, if I think back with myself as a student, I actually had no clue on the financial base, what I was worth. And then when I left school, I still had no clue. And then you come to jobs and then you get paid this much, but then you do a job after you get paid that much. And you're like, wait, some things are not really the same here.

So what is it actually? And. I was wondering, you know, like, cause you are here in the Netherlands and you're freelance dancer yourself. Have you, have you encountered these kinds of let's say incidents or just examples that people are offering you very different things than what you are used to underpaid, for example do you have.

Any example, like you don't have to say the company name or whatever, but just like that people get an idea of like, how, how this is in , how does comes to practice basically? 

Bilal: Well, of course I've experienced lots of times that Money offered or contracts offered were just like completely off of what it has to be.

And honestly in the beginning, I didn't know, like when I, when I got out of school, like it was just randomly learning from my mistakes basically until I actually found out how to find the information that is valid to me in order to no, what is a good contract and what is aware of that? I have. A market worth.

And I did experience a lot of times already that then people would try and offer me an amount of money. Why Dan had to say, sorry, this is not enough. Or this is not the contract doesn't fit me. Or like something is, something was off there. Yeah. And in the end, that's then always a discussion about why, why does that happen?

And of course not everyone is in the same position. So every, every company has different funding and that's an important, an important part to find out what kind of funding do they have, which is possible to find it as well. And because they're made public actually. Exactly. Yeah. And that's something I also didn't know until.

Short time ago, you can look it up, basically. Exactly. You can just look it up and it's hard because in the end it's numbers and well, first of all, you, you just see a big number and then you need to find out okay, but what is happening with that money? Of course. Yeah. And you need to get realistic with it, which is very hard.

So that information feel like is the trickiest to get, but it is interesting anyways, to see. What happens with the money? So in the end, it boils always down to that. I have to go into that discussion except for you already get a good offer. 

Wouter: I think. To really honestly talk about, you know, like how it is working as a freelance or in the arts field.

It also of course, depends a little bit on where you are in the world here in the Netherlands, as a dancer, you earn actually more as you progress in the year. So you are, your salary is based on your experience, but even within that, there is a very, very. Very often there's people who just get this X amount of funding and they want to have this X amount of dancers to work for them.

But actually with that amount of funding, they cannot offer a that amount of dancers, basically that the right amount of money. So it's, it's also a thing of like, yeah, but. Then you got to hire less people. And I think that very often there is this this thing that young dancers, young freelancers, they feel like they just want to work.

So they do take these types of jobs, which has then, you know, it's this vicious circle that dis never improves basically overtime. How would you S and I think. Well, I have multiple questions right now, but my first question would be like, how would you see that change? And my second question is that is I think the intentional sort of your workshops, right.

To create a healthier environment for later for also younger people to teach them not to just take anything.

Bilal: Exactly. Yeah. That's exactly what, what my mission is, let's say what I see as my mission to really. Spread the word so that we all can stand together stronger in that field, because the moment exactly what you say, the moment that people feel like, Oh I just want to work.

Sorry, the, the moment I people feel like, like, I just want to work and whatever I do, like just give me a bit of money, whatever, like they take every job just for the sake of having a job. Yeah. Or like for the sake of, Oh, that's cool. So I want to do that or whatever. So they just do it, but that means that they lower the standards for everyone.

Yeah. So the moment you accept working for 80 euros a day, That means that the company sees, okay, we can offer 80 years a day and that works. Like people accepted. We will find somebody who does it, which is Indiana really crazy. Ridiculous. Yeah. That thought itself is just, it ruins, it ruins our prices.

Yeah. All of our prices because in the end, Why, why would you, why would you want to, where's the motivation for you as an entrepreneur then? Like, if you have your own company, why would you have the motivation to pay more than 80 euros? If you know that somebody is doing that for that money? Yeah. You will find it.

You will, of course not find then also the experience people that already know about all of that. Of course, you know, like. That is something they definitely have to cut in. Yeah. But it always depends on like what quality work you want to have. And yeah. 

Wouter: Well, I just, I think I just to touch on that sub subject of what you said, that, you know, like the younger people will then take these jobs and the older people, the more experienced people there would be like, well, you know, so these people who offer these projects and offer these contracts, they will basically end up with.

Less experienced people, but you already see that happen in the, in the Netherlands, in like the internship system is that, you know, some people, they are just like, we take three interns and we take two professionals and then we create a piece and the interns are doing exactly the same as the professionals, but there are paid a hell of a lot less because by, by law they don't have to be paid according to a certain standards.


Bilal: Yeah, that's a loophole that's being used. Of course. Yes. It's. That's what I mean, like, as soon as there's a possibility to use something in order, like to keep your company up and running, as you would like to see it, then it's being used. Of course. And I get, I get the idea behind it. That's the thing, the, the, the star GA idea is actually great to tell.

Okay. You're still a student, but you're gonna work as a dancer or like, or whatever. Like you, you work already in the field and you get the experience, but you don't get paid the full amount because you're not there yet. Exactly. Yeah. And data's being used and you see exactly what you say companies saying, okay.

Then we take lots of stodgy days because. Then we can have a big production with 20 people on stage happens. Yeah. Instead of like five that we can actually pay. Yeah. You know, and then the thing is the, the, what, what you have to realize is that even though you have to the status of a stodgier doesn't necessarily mean that quality wise, you will be Worse on stage than an experience dancing.

That's true. Yeah. That depends really on you, you and what you can bring an offer. Yeah. And that's a part of the workshop, like bringing up that that mindset in the younger and the younger people, the, the students to know to realize that even though you still have to stay at us of not having experience.

That doesn't necessarily mean that you cannot contribute quality work. It always depends on what you can really offer and you need to be self-confident about that. And that self-confidence needs to be built up. And especially in the dance world, that's something that is not built up. Like we are 

Wouter: exactly.

You destroy people, that's it. It's not that encouraging. It's always feedback critics. Of course not. Yeah. It doesn't really happen so often that people are being recognized for their strengths or, or being nurtured in their strengths. Let's say inside these dis schools. 

Bilal: Exactly. Plus we're still being raised as dancers.

I, I think personally that. There's a system problem already from a young age on like people that, for example start as kids already dancing with ballet, ballet is still very very much in the old way, spilled up on a system that is very hierarchic. So you learn that you are the little one. Yeah. And you will stay the little one.

There is a choreographer on top of you. And before that stairs, The dancers with more experience and then there's the soloists and the chorus. There's this whole system like a pyramid. And basically you are like, you are reading on the bottom somewhere and That that's how you're being raised and exactly what you say.

Like you get criticism of course, the whole time. Like it's always about improving you and you hardly ever get told like, okay, this is your strength. You need to work that out. That's something for you to find out. Plus in an education you are constantly confronted with yourself. Like you see yourself in the mirror 

Wouter: letting like literally all day, every day.

So, you know, your 

Bilal: body like in and out. Yeah. And you also know everything you don't like about it. Yeah. That's a hundred percent sure. And with that reeling, you get out in the working field, just feeling like insecure. Yeah. And then you need to, yeah. Then I come in and tell you why you're worth something.

They look at me like. And 


Wouter: my God, they're like finally, after all these years, someone is giving me  some recognition.

Bilal: Exactly. And it's, it feels weird. And I know like I've been feeling the same way. Like when I started working, I was like, so thankful for the work I'm like, which is okay. But I was too thankful in a way.

I was like, okay, like I actually get, like, my work gets recognized. That was something new for me. So, yeah. Oh my God. How did that happen? Like all those years that I've spent, like, just feeling  miserable

Wouter: I think it's, it's so crazy to think about because you know, on this podcast, I also talk with a lot of different types of freelancers.

You can know what, like freelancers who work as freelance marketers, or consultants or coaches or people who work in social media or whatever. And it's, you know, to have this conversation with those types of people, it's, you know, it's one thing always is like how to put a price on yourself, which is basically a bit this know your worth, but very often.

Yes. Okay. It happens that there is like jobs that people get offered and they pay less, but it's not like in the dance world, in the arts world where it's so where a lot of people are so insecure about themselves, what you just said and that, because of these insecurities, they just feel like, Oh my God, Any job would be good because anyway, the dance world is kind of like a race almost.

It's like you start with 25 in your education and you finish with 15 and two years later, you're only with 10 people who are actually working in the field. So it's like this race of like who wins, who wins the longest run basically at his job. But it's, I really support that idea. What you say to change his mindset of already in school, that you go out with the feeling of like, okay, this is what I can offer.

And then that's, and that makes me work this much as well. But then I have a question though, for you, because sometimes. There's, you know, like you have to work for free, or sometimes there is like free jobs or paid for less, but they have benefits. For example, if it's a big exposure to a company or you get benefits later from it.

Could you maybe tell me your opinion on, like, when do you work for free or when do you work for less? Because yeah, it's hard because I'm always the person that says like, no, never work for less, never work for free, but.Than sometimes I can see the benefits. What would you say if people ask you this question?

Bilal: Well, it's something that I'm really against in general. Like just saying like, if, if you are a professional in your field and somebody offers you something for free, like as in like you would need to work for free, then there needs to be a good reason for it. Yeah. There definitely needs to be. A very good reason.

If there's not a good reason, then you don't do it because why would you do it? And why would you sell something cheaper or for free, if you want to take yourself serious as like an entrepreneur and you're your own work. Yeah. So what'd you say there needs to be a benefits in a way or. Like, those are the two options.

You either get a benefits from it in some way, and that you need to know for yourself, what is a good enough benefits? Or you have a colleague, a friend, whatever that, you know, like just needs to build up or like you, you know, you can help out like that is, that is something I would consider like, okay. I know A friend of mine is starting his company or starting a business and doesn't actually have money or whatever, and does need help somewhere.

Like you can, you can do favors, you know, as in like two people that are really, really close to you, it's not like, Oh, I know this person from whatever. So, but somebody is close to me and needs help. We'll get help for me. Of course. And I, I wouldn't, I, I would feel personally bad to know, like if somebody would have to go into big expenses for me, like just in order to do something, but if I know I can help that person and I liked that person.

And I want to help that person, then I'll do it. But other than that, there's no way that I will do anything for free. 

Wouter: I have going on on that for free topic. I have a situation, I'd say no, not personally, but I have a situation in my mind that comes to me. This would probably never, never, ever happen in any other fields, but in the dance field very often, there is you go to auditions, of course an audition is like an interview to get a job basically and audition  you always take for free because it's actually, you're trying to get their job. So it's not about being paid for an audition, but sometimes, 

Bilal: Sorry, will you actually sometimes even pay for audition? 

Wouter: Yeah. I mean, thatis crazy and that is something that I am like, why would I go pay to show myself to you?

And I see these things and it's like, I don't know if that's, that's something that's a scandal, but not that they pay you to audition for them. You know, like you're not being paid your time or your travels to come to addition. True. But in some situations it happens that an audition is a week long and it's kind of like a workshop where the choreograph or invites a couple of people over because he's not really sure.

Whether he wants to choose this girl or this guy or anybody, but he does want to work with this group and he does want to take inspiration out of that group for a, for, for a next piece. So you go there and you are not being paid as actually giving your input and giving you inspiration because it's kind of wrapped up in the jacket as this is a workshop audition, but.

The person, if he doesn't hire you, he might take your material. Inside his peace. It has happened with people. I've spoken with people that it actually has happened. But then what I said is like, you know, in the world where you are, you know, let's say if you're a graphic designer and you design, and there is a company that needs a new logo and said, we want to hire you for like we, we want you to like audition for us for five days in which you create a bunch of logos.

And based on that, we will take you as a employee, but if they don't take him, they can take his logo, but then the guy can say, well, that logo I can copyright it or pattern it, that you cannot use it unless you actually hire me. This with dancers, it's going to be very, very hard to do because you kind of want the job.

If it's like a nice week of workshop and there's an audition and you hope to get the job, but you don't get the job, but he uses all your material. You cannot go and go to a choreograph and say, well, if you want to if you don't hire me after you cannot take anything of what I created for you in that week, this almost doesn't happen.

Bilal: It's a very specific example. 

Wouter: I know, but this is how crazy it gets!

Bilal: I know. And it's it's a tricky one. It's really a tricky one because when you started telling the story, I was like, well, yeah, you know, at least you get a, a w you actually get a workshop. Yeah. But then you started with talking about, okay. But they use the material of you without you being in the piece itself. To me. 

Wouter: It's happened to me. Yes. Okay. 

Bilal: So that's. That's where it really comes in handy to learn something about copyright, because that, what I also tell during the workshops is that the biggest problem with us really re, being able to represent ourselves is that we don't learn on how to really.

Read and make contracts, something that is going a bit, I'm taking a bit of route around to answer your question. But basically what happens is that we have our, as a freelancer, we have our own businesses, right?  So you have to be in charge of everything that goes on in your company. Yes. Right? So. You should be making the prizes and you should be making the contracts that other people have to sign.

What happens though, is that in our world, in the dance world, it happens the other way around. So you are being hired and offer the contract that you have to sign. So they are saying what on the, under what circumstances you will work for them and you will sign it. Which is twisted because in every other field as...

Wouter: As a freelancer, you're like, this is my rate, this is my contract hire me for this. And that's it. 

Bilal: Exactly. So this is your offer. Yeah. And they can take it or they can leave it, but we are being like, kind of mind flipped and like they tell us, so you are being offered that and you can take it or not. Yeah. And, and that's, that's where the issues come in, because we don't know anything about.

Contracts and our rights. And that is a freaking hard topic, of course, but it's something that is really helpful to have in mind, because if you get ever like a contract from somebody else, then you can always see immediately what is wrong with the contract or what you would like to change, which shows immediately that you know what you're doing.

And it's a, it's a topic that's very hard to get into and I'm still working on it a lot, but it's very necessary to have. Yeah. And that comes now I come back to your story that is here coming in very handy, because if you go to such a workshop, the actual procedure would have to be that if you go there saying you take that workshop, that is for.

Production, but it's not sure yet that you are in the production, you would have to set up a contract to copyright whatever you do inside that workshop. If you are not being within that piece yourself, nobody's able to use your intellectual input input. Yeah. Or your it's actually domain. Like you own that.

Yeah. That does. 

Wouter: That is yours domain. 

Bilal: Exactly. Yeah. So. Once you contributed and they don't take you in, you should state that your material like is not being there. They're not able to use it except for the buyout, whatever you created, right? Yeah. That's how it, how it should be. Yes. But because. We're a stupid idea.

Wouter: You have no idea. 

Bilal: I would say like this, we're not educated in that we just go and do it also because of, I would do the same, honestly, like I would be just like, Oh, well, you know, it's a workshop that I can just for fun. Like if I don't get the job, I'm actually, that's how I go to every audition. Like if I go to an audition, I see it as a workshop.

And if I get a job out of it, perfect. Otherwise, Wow then it's not meant to be, but if that happens that my material would be used otherwise in a piece without me actually doing the material, that is where problems come in. And that's actually, I can understand how that can upset you very much, but as long as there is no signed contract beforehand.

There's nothing you can do about it. Plus you would need to have. Proof. So you would have to fillm.

Wouter: Record the whole  thing! And I think a lot of dancerss they just want to like then do the workshop. Hopefully they get it. But I do really what you said really is that when you get a contract from others, actually as a freelancer, it's, it's a, this thing, what you say you are your own business.

I've been keeping repeating this all the time. And it's really great that you're saying it. And That when you get a contract that you actually, it's not, it's not a one-way street, it's actually a both way thing because you are a business, they are a business. So it's a business to business thing.

It's not, they're hiring you because you're just like an employee. You're actually, they're in business with you at that moment. So contract wise, you can make changes and you actually have, can also make your own contract, which. These things, how to make this change and thing. I am going to record a podcast together with Merel van der Wouden, and she's a negotiating expert and she will tell us a little bit more about how to negotiate really on a business to business level, not just thinking like, okay, I'm going to be hired and this is it.

No, but really, if you feel like there needs to be some changes or if you want to go up. Or if you already worked for a choreograph for, for example, for two years, that you're going to be paid again, the same. You're like, well, after two years, I want to have a raise because it's normal sometimes to have raises.

How do you negotiate that? So for everybody, I just wanted to quickly put that in here that there is a very important, cool podcast coming up with Merel, which I'm very excited about. But back to the topic is To put that in practice. What you said to create a contract before you're entering a workshop audition where they know you, they might take the material in the dance world.

People would look like, look at you. Like you're crazy. They'd be like, Whoa, who is this person to think like that, but exactly. Actually how it should be. 

Bilal: Yeah. That's like, that's a good note. Like, what I just stated is really. A vision, how it should be. Yeah, because that's how it works in every other field except for ours.

And well, like in the art world, it's, it's really like the dancers are really behind with everything. Yeah. Like every, every other art scene has gotten a voice through unions yet way earlier than dancers have musicians are great with unions. They have been. Like doing that for ages before dancers stepped into actually stand up for their rights.

Yeah. And that is something that we're behind. So we need to work that out that we are actually getting there a musician that would create in a workshop like music pieces would definitely he be able to copyright it. 

Wouter: Yeah, exactly. Immediately. So it should be the same actually with movement or movement phrases, actually that.

Well, when it's really done, like it's just copy, you know, you can very quickly see it. It's not that hard to, to think like, Oh, that wasn't really, that wasn't true, you know? But yeah, how to set that up is of course how to make that change. And I think that is why your workshop it's workshops at all these academies are so.

Important to do. And now that's also why I ask you to be on this podcast and this whole theme of knowing your worth. I want to bring this back more often, but I also would like to hear from other fields from other types of freelancers in different fields, how their situations are. And I'm trying to get somebody from a freelancer union, like just a union for just freelancers to also go, go on the podcast to talk about this because I think this is just something that.

I mean, it's your mission, but I also always feel like, Oh, that needs to change so much in this dance world or, and I think any type of young freelancer in the beginning of the career, they just, they don't know a lot. And I think you just need to find the right resources and be educated in it in a right way.

And you'll set yourself up for a more healthy. Situation environment, career, I think, or just how to deal with these people. 

Bilal: I think that's normal because you are like, once you start a business, you really like you really focusing on what you want to do. Yeah. So like you set up your business and everything you're focused on is like, this is what I want to do.

Like this is want to, like, you're just creating, creating, creating, creating, and. I get that, like, everybody is the same, then you're in that train of thought and you completely let go of what is the business side of it. And that comes in later. What really helps, like promoting the Kunstenbon. No, prmoting every kind of union that you could like, imagine in every field it's.

It's great to go and find help there. Yeah. It's a, it's like really a small amount of money that you usually have to pay monthly to be a part of that, but you will get usually great benefits out of it. Yeah. To support you in exactly those questions that you don't have any idea of to set up your business or to keep your business on the radar, like, or to help you.

In any question contracts, for example, how would you know anything about, like, about the laws and about how to set up a contract? How would you know that without actually going through an education in law and hiring like a lawyer just for like starting up a business? If you don't have loaded parents that can support you, it's gonna be tricky.

You will have a problem. You will be already in depth before you even started your business. And, and that's something that keeps you away from actually going into that topic because you're in the creative state. Right. But if you would go like with questions like that towards like a union that can support you legally.

For your questions, specific questions, you can just go there and ask them to set up your old, legal administration, but you can go with yeah. Really guided questions towards how you should proceed or like whatever you encounter. Yeah. Like what I did, for example, a lot is sending in contracts that I get sent.

I sent that further with questions of please scan that contract and give me feedback on it on those and those points, because I'm not sure if that is good for me or not. Yeah. And I'll get feedback on, okay. Like, look here, you would need to ask for a bit more clarification or this point should go out because it actually really damages you.

Or it gets you in a position where you don't have any rights or, you know, that that's something that is really important because those contracts, of course also written in a language that you didn't learn. Of course. And then with the time with that help, you can learn it way faster to read those contracts without having to go through a whole education.

And that's, that's important to get into. 

Wouter: I, I agree with you. And I was actually going to ask you, like, do you have any tips, like any tips or any advice that you actually gave it, like unions are grades to be a part of, especially as a freelancer and especially if you are working in a field like dance to have backing and to have a support system in a way.

I did want to ask you the last question is how do you find out how much you are worth? In the Netherlands, let's just put it in the Netherlands. 

Bilal: You weigh how much cheese you can outweigh. No. Well basically in the Netherlands you have the CAO's. Right? 

Wouter: The work agreements. 

Bilal: Exactly. The work agreements that are being put up between usually.

Different parties of like the field itself and like a union. Yeah. Like for dancers, for example, it's, it's the Kunstenbond that is actually in conversation with them 

With like the big institutions, like, yeah, basically you would have big companies in the field. The hats of those, like having conversations with the Constable and sitting down and talking about the rights that have to go be written down in that agreement and that agreement, you will also find a written down worth that you will get through within the years.

So you can see a whole a whole sheet where you can just see, okay, with each experienced year that you have in that field. Your amount will be raised by this and this and then that you will see a monthly salary, but that monthly salary is going. That is very important to know for being hired for being actually hired full-time yeah.

In a company that is not for freelancers. I know that at the moment, a colleague of mine at the consultant is busy with making a translation tool. Yeah. For freelancers. Great for that time being for now, it is important for freelancers to know that the amounts that are stated there, you need to put another 40% on top of that, because these are the benefits that you will miss as being a freelancer that somebody has that is actually higher, full time

Wouter: Because of pension, because of all these things that you have to All of it, basically have to put, you know, there's much more to it than just money that you can spend on clothes.

Bilal: Yeah. There there's everything to it. Like all the, all the costs that you will have have as a freelance or yourself that a company would actually cover while even paying you the money, the salary that you get. And that's like talking about holidays. You know, like you get a holiday fee date month or exactly.

I'll get you what you said you had a pension, like you get actually an insurance that is. So expensive as when you're like a freelancer and that's an important one actually to have for all dancers. And I know that 1% of the dancers actually have it because it's so expensive. Yeah. To just have like the possibility, the possibility to be in short for not being able to work anymore.

Yeah. You get injured. What if you then have to miss those performances or for free months, you cannot work anymore. Yeah. If you're not, if you don't have the insurance for that, which is very expensive for a freelancer, then very, yeah. You lose a lot of money and that's all money that you lose. And that's, that's the issue with, sometimes it feels a lot to put those 40% on top of that money.

Yeah. But it is money that is crucial for you to have in order to be able to actually have all social securities that you would have as being hired. 

Wouter: I know this is a, this is a very tricky thing. And I think also depending on each field, there is different amounts and each field does their own thing, but it's really this education thing that we are as freelancers.

We're not educated. What you said that you need. And insurance for when you are sick or when you are not able to work or when you. For a certain reasons. A lot of people from us don't know, actually my father is a freelancer, so he told me, okay, you need to get this insurance. But I was like, wow, that's a lot of money, but it's insurance.

And I was like, damn, do I really need this one? So yeah, I think it's about this whole. Being educated in what should be part of your worth. It's the pension, it's the social securities. It's, it's all of these things. And I think what you said in the Netherlands, it is really that you can actually look up these, these numbers in every field, there is in every work every union does these things and they, they make these CAO's these work agreements, these, these paid agreements that say exactly.

And I think for sure in every country, they have their own system in place for these kinds of things. There's unions everywhere who regulate distincts basically. So basically you can just search for it and you can find it. 

Bilal: Yeah, it's exactly. Yeah. And like if I can make advertisement again, no, I'm not making advertisement, but actually a helpful tool, a really helpful tool.

It costs you nothing. If you're in a union basically, this is  important for dancers, freelance dancers. Again there is a European, no, not a European as a European. You have a dance passport. Ah, yeah. I don't know if you've heard about that, but it's basically something from the international Federation of actors and.

So that passport is very helpful for you. If you are in a union, let's say you are, you are living in the Netherlands. You are part of the constituent. You you're a member there, you pay your monthly fee, but you will have work abroad somewhere. And in Europe you work for example in France. Yeah. But you don't have any idea about the laws there.

You don't have any idea about your, like anything there. Yeah. So to get the information is very, very tough because usually then also those websites, that state that will be only in that language. So if you don't know French somewhere else, Oh my god. 

You will struggle a lot. Yeah. But what you can do with this.

With that passport, basically you can easily get help from the union in that specific country. So what then happens is instead of going to the constant bond and asking for them to contact somebody in that union 

Wouter: You can go immediately to them.

Bilal: Exactly. You go to that union. You amazing, you just contact that union in France and then you will.

Get help from them without having to pay a fee because you pay a fee back home in the Netherlands. Oh wow. So it's something that the, the unions to argue unions have formed together there to help each other out. And especially for freelancers that work a lot abroad to get that like just in a system and does is really helpful because whenever you run into trouble abroad, You can just go to that union and they will help you out.

You will have a backup always. 

And especially if it's a language that you don't have any clue off, 

Wouter: or you don't know anything about tax regulations or laws or anything, you can just show your dancers passport and be like, you guys got to help me out right now. Exactly. Oh, this is I actually haven't I heard, I haven't heard from this somewhere down the line, but never really.

Knew what value it had or not what the intention of it was.

Bilal: It's really, it's, it's amazing that that happened. Yeah. Funny thing is like it it was. It was already, they had something like that back in the days apparently, but the guts, it didn't really, it wasn't a views. Yeah. And so it kind of disappeared and they renewed it.

They brought it back out, I think two years ago or something. Yeah. And yeah, it wasn't really interesting talk like I was there at this whole conference in Rotterdam back then ask them like, It was so cool to see that there's actually this coming up and that everybody is working together on making that happen and that you have the opportunity to go abroad and still get help from another union because you are in a union back in your place.

So that just, that's the biggest value you can get out of there. That's great. 

Wouter: Well, I think this was so informative for me personally, as a freelance dancer. Of course, what I said in the beginning of the episode that we're going to focus a little bit more on the Arts and on dance. But in, in the end, like I think this episode still had a lot of valuable information for all kinds of freelancers.

Just about like, Also what you said, like social securities are part of your, your, your worth basically. So don't forget your pension, all of these kinds of things. I think we're gonna wrap this up if you, I don't know if you have any other last tips. I mean, of course was like you're from the  Kunstenbond and I'm a fan of them  as well.

So of course, if you guys are here in the Netherlands, make sure you. Look into that, but I do also urge every freelancer to be, to become part of a, a union cause they're so valid. And I think as freelancer, very often, we all feel like that we are alone and that we have to do everything by ourselves. But actually there are unions that, you know, have whole teams that will help you.

You just pay a little small fee each month, but then you have access to. Like amazing resources, basically. 

Bilal: True. Yeah. That's like what I can, what I would like to give everyone, like as an information is really that what, what I see happening a lot is that especially young people think that a union is like, I tell, I tell them about the benefits, this, and they only see those benefits as in that moment as in like, okay, I need help right now.

So I will become a member right now to get the help. And as soon as I'm done with that help, I'm going out again. Yeah. And, and that doesn't really make sense because you have to see the bigger picture in there that the more members are actually subscribed in that union. Yeah. The more power you will have as a union to actually have impact also on the politics, like right now in the Corona crisis, there was lots of battling with.

Getting more money, more funding for all those companies that otherwise would have to shut down. Yeah. And if there's only a few hundred members in that union 

Wouter: You have no say and the government, we'll be like, okay, bye. 

Bilal: Exactly. Like we don't care about 200 people, but if you say, Hey, we have 10,000 people there that are actually backing you up, then there is a big pressure.

And if there's more than that, if there's 20,000, that's even better, like the more people are in there, the more power you have to actually change something and to make that field like strong and actually also very regulated. 

Wouter: Yeah. So regulation also. Yeah, of course, 

Bilal: the better you can represent your whole community, the better you stand in that whole discussion and that's important.

And. Plus you get the benefits. Yeah. The benefits as are kind of like really 

Wouter: It's the benefits!

Bilal: Exactly. 

Wouter: It's about you. It's a union. It's like, it's about uniting. It's about creating a common community. It's about. Standing strong altogether. And especially for freelancers, there is so much work to be done for our rights and our laws and our legal numbers.

And I don't know, whatever. So I do think I support that as well, a lot. So down below you guys will find the the link to a bunch of unions here in the Netherlands. And especially the constant bonds, because I do want to just give some unions out there. So you guys have some resources where you can go and just search on.

I know that there is a super large freelancers union in the United States, which is really cool. I did some research on it and I was like, Oh, that's cool. There was a dancer's union in Germany. There is a dancers union in the UK. So I really urge everybody to look into where you live basically and find your union.

Thank you, Bilal for having this great talk and so, so much value. And I also just enjoy talking same here and what's it for today. Next week on Tuesday, we'll be back with a new podcast episode with another guest and another topic. I hope you guys stay healthy these days. And I'll talk to you guys later.



Bilal Bachir


Bilal received his Bachelor of dance in 2015 at the ArtEZ Hogeschool Voor de Kunsten.
Since then he is successfully working as a freelance performer on an international level. His range of performances goes from dance, through theatre to aerial.
Since 2018 he joined the Kunstenbond as a board member of the Group Theatre and Dance and started giving the 'Know Your Value' workshops in the name of the Kunstenbond to dutch dance students all over the country.