Why Creatives Should Always Work As Contractors.

This is a personal narrative about a time I worked full-time as an employee.

My adult life has always been split between working a full-time salaried position and working freelance. I prefer the flexibility of the freelance life-style, but I’m also addicted to stability, a normal paycheck, and the occasional spending on ASOS. It was during a dry work season that I decided to take on another full-time salaried position.

I’m confident in my work ethic and in my work strategy (work hard, but work smart). My skill set ranges over quite a few job titles, and because I’ve always worked in the startup world I’m very okay with wearing many hats.

For this particular position, I was hired as the Marketing Director for a chain of ice cream stores about to launch. Here are a few of the projects I took charge of:

  • building and designing their entire website
  • creating their company slogan
  • building their brand which included a brand guide
  • creative directing and executing their product photos and online content
  • designing their employee uniforms
  • building their influencer list (which included some of my personal contacts)
  • designing and building their menus for all of their stores
  • creative directing the art in their stores
  • set up and managed all of their online business listings and social media channels
  • responded to online customer reviews

Now, if I had been hired as a contractor and did all this in 2 months… it would have been a $20,000 trip to the bank. But, because I took the health insurance, did my job well, and threw myself (and my trust) into this company’s initiative, I was paid $8,192 in total.

$8,192… before I was fired.

I know you’re wondering. In a one on one meeting, I told the owner that I didn’t like how he spoke to me in a previous phone convo. I used the words “undervalued” and “not appreciated”. I was fired the next week.

Now I know I was undervalued in that position.

I was fired because of my unwillingness to be subordinate to an emotionally frustrated man.

The company hasn’t replaced my work. Because my work was great. This company is still using my creative to sell their products and make residual income, even in their new stores.

This is why creatives should work as contractors.

Contracting protects you and your work. You get to set your boundaries with the client. You get to throw down the rules. And when you get to throw down the rules, you can not only choose to be kind (kinder than my boss), but you can protect your creative works. My creative works in this scenario were worth $20,000. If I had been a contractor and was only proposed $8,192 for this work, it would have been a hard pass. Or I would have scaled back my services to better fit their budget.

Or maybe I would have asked for equity 😉.

But here we are.

While I’m sharing this story with a little bit of an emotional charge, I want to share a few statics with you.

I understand that a salaried position can work well for some people. There are 6 million open jobs in the United States America. I can’t argue with that.

Here’s my advice.

If you’re a creative looking for a new job, start your freelance business while you’re on the hunt. You might be surprised at the contract opportunities that come your way. (If you’re working hard and working smart).

There are plenty of free resources online that teach you how to build, start, and scale your freelance world. Don’t fall for the $250 online workshop that you found during your midnight Facebook scroll. Use the internet. Use your circle to find mentors that can guide you if things get… *woof.

Now, to sound like your mom: Always know what your work is worth. Always know what your time is worth. Don’t get taken advantage of because of a potential client’s “tight budget”.

And heavily vet out the person you’ll be working for if you decide to keep that salaried position. Always protect your work.