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I did have my own business - woodworking (furniture, custom bookshelves, mostly ended up doing garden stuff, though). The way I set my rates depended on the job, where it was and how likely a parking ticket was. I generally looked for a specific amount per hour, then materials and finally something to cover those parking tickets.

Most of it was non-negotiable; material costs are what they are. Traffic cops, likewise. My hourly rate was flexible - to a point. If I deemed the person was going too cheap, they didn't get my work. If they accepted without haggling - great! (The killer was "I can get that Target/Ikea/etc for $75!" In which case I suggested they do so, and they never heard from me again... ) Work wasn't started until I had the material costs covered as a deposit; nothing less.

So many clients tried to change the terms and conditions before the job was finished; one went so far as to suggest I drag over a ton of dirt through their apartment building - in order to fill the planters they hadn't "quite" paid me for.

The "value" wasn't so much what I thought my time and skills were worth, as what the local competition was charging. Because I picked the wrong market, I generally didn't make as much profit as I initially thought I would. (My tax returns were pathetic...)

Bad planning? Or simply inexperience with the market, and with what's appropriate for custom bookcases? A bit of both; and the books were of so little help! (A Jim Tolpin book was of help, but, unfortunately, not in any specific sense.)

Okay, what would I do if I found a lot of money? Turn it in. It's not mine, and that's all I need to know!

If someone said it was a gift, I'd have to wonder. An unrecognized gift-giver? I'd absolutely refuse to take it. (Don't politicians get into trouble over that sort of thing? :-) ) Without knowledge of the gift, or gift-giver, I'd be forced to conclude that some ulterior motive is being played.

(If I knew the gift-giver, I'd still refuse it. I don't want that sort of gift. It's smacks too much of either charity or vain attempts at buying my friendship.)

As for #1, I've no idea. And I've now got to dash...

Carolyn Ann

PS Good questions. :-)

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