Merging Creativity and Business (Pt. I)

“It will cost me how much? For you to draw a logo?! Forget it — my nephew has Photoshop, I’ll just call him. You’re insane.”

Why does this client still exist? It seems like no matter how much work you do, how much your clients respect you, or what your portfolio looks like, this asshole always shows up again. They come to you because so-and-so mentioned you, or they saw you in Instagram. They need a logo, maybe a business card. Oh, and a new website. With a blog. Their friend from high school has a nice camera and already did their photography for free, so they’ve got some ca$h to spend on your services.

You know, like $200.

I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of this client. He will always exist. She will always heckle us, claim we’re scammers. Just consider it a necessary evil of working in the creative industry.

While there’s been significant growth in our arts districts and artistic endeavors across Oklahoma City, a lot of people haven’t quite caught onto the value of creative services yet. Graphic design, web design, photography, development… these are things you can expect to do in your free time, but not really as a profession, right? If I want good photos, all I have to do is go buy a “nice camera” and my pictures will look just as good… right?

If there’s one thing the American education system has taught us, it’s that creativity is an extracurricular. It’s an elective. Sure, you should have to dabble in it at some point in the form of a freshman photography class (to be cultured or whatever) but it’s not something to focus too much time on. It won’t get you into [real] college like physics will. This isn’t always an overt bias, but it exists in the shifting structure of curriculum as children age. It exists in tropes and stereotypes thrown at us in little, but demeaning ways by society at large.

Oh, you have an art degree… what’s your shift at Burger King like this week?

When did you realize you wanted to be a starving artist when you grow up?

So when your girlfriend broke up with you, did you send her your ear in a box?

These biases stick with us. And while it would be so easy to blame non-creatives (they just don’t understand!) for perpetuating these ideas, the truth is that we “artist-types” carry them with us as well.

We still believe the lies, just in new ways.

We may not think we’ll be a “starving artist”, but we do have a hard time defending our rates to bullish clients. We want to be respected as professionals, but inspiration is just so elusive and if it doesn’t strike on a particular project, that isn’t our fault! I like to ask lots of questions of the people around me. I like gathering information and perspective from those with different experiences. After speaking with professionals (both creative and not), freelancers, students, and everyone in-between, I’ve realized there are at least three myths we cling to consistently that hurt us professionally:

  1. You’re a hobbyist, not a professional.
  2. Creativity can’t make you money.
  3. Anyone can do what you do.

These, my friends, are bullshit. By seeing them for what they are (myths) and debunking them (logic + facts), we can take away their power. And by rebuilding our self-image on our truths, we can start to reshape the image that society at large holds of creatives.