Know your value and settle for no less
Lately I’m seeing an awful lot of advice for those in the creative industries. Whilst it is almost always helpful, there’s a select few that — I think — just miss the point. Typically, these ones are revolving around making money.
Know your worth!
Let me preface, I completely respect those that have made their thing work. There’s no doubt about that, but some advice feels misdirected. Much of it is along the lines of how to best get work to gain experience whilst you are growing still — as a creative.
This is a widely held view, but it caused a bit of disruption recently. A lot of issues arise from working for free, or taking expenses-only jobs. I can break down a few of the problems based (mostly) off of my own experiences over the past five years.
Know your worth
You should figure out what your time and work is worth. Whether you base it on a rate and multiply that by the estimated hours (to complete the work), or you have a set rate for a particular task (10 photos edited, a logo, an ident, an instrumental, etc).
Either way, stick to it! Know that you need not settle for less. (Now, the dynamic is different if you have no work to back up your demands.) When I had no work to back my demands, I was paying entry to gigs so I could take photos. This works, but in the long term is unsustainable. You need to get paid!
There’s a lot of sites popping up lately that help clients find people to complete work for next to nothing. Let me be clear and say I think these sites are a terrible idea for people creating. You’ve got Toptask, TaskRabbit, Fiverr and a lot more. Almost all of these sites aim to do the same thing: help clients pay pennies for quality work. On Fiverr, you’ve got designers offering logos for £3.85! Three-hundred-and-eighty-five pence.
It’s not just here in the UK either. Fiverr exists in the US, and in Portugal and Spain there is Zaask.
The FREE Mentality
If you stay working for free (or for peanuts) at what point do you break the cycle? Here’s the issue:
- Clients know someone will do the work for free/next-to-nothing
- Clients will offer the work for free/next-to-nothing
- Clients and creatives get used to this level of work
Free work has drastic knock-on effects to the entire creative industry — not just the particular field this happens in. I don’t mean to sound rebellious but don’t let anyone tell you to work for free (or for expenses) to gain experience. It’s an extra massive liberty if the person telling you work for free, is getting paid at the same time. By all means do — I did free work a lot — but it’s not the only way.
Ha! I get the impression that while it was popular, the creative industry loved to critique expenses-only internships. Is it encouraged now? Remember something here:
Expenses do not pay the bills!
You. Must. Be. Joking. Are you suggesting I work my ass off to be paid in travel and food? Again, this is so far from sustainable and can only really work if you are living with parents and not having to pay a penny in rent or bills. Even then, you better hope they are paying for (in my case) your phone bill, your contact lenses, your gym membership, your Spotify, and so on.
Jodie breaks it down real nicely here,
I don’t think it’s such a common practice for other industries to try and ask people to work for free or just expenses.
Your health is a priority
Everything I’ve mentioned so far is unsustainable and only now are we to talk about our health. Believe me, it should be your priority. Your physical health might take a backseat but your sanity should remain №1.
During my time in Uni I was working retail and also working (free and paid) in Photography. At GRM Daily I was managing social media platforms, contributing written content, and attend gigs to photograph them. I helped run Glitch Artists Collective whilst it grew to 50,000+ members. I carried out freelance Photography and Design work for the likes of Manga Saint Hilare, [NOTHING], KwolleM, and more. I contributed to Complex UK, Mad Good Music, and more.
Did I even consider my health in that time? Not once.
Don’t do the same! It’s all too easy to over work yourself by having so many high priority tasks simultaneously. I reached a point of not being able to maintain that level of work, that way of living. For a while during University, my days would be like this:
- 6am — 11am: delivery shift at work and the first two hours of opening,
- 12pm — 4pm: University, maybe a lecture and seminar or getting University work done
- 5pm — 8pm: close-down shift at work, we’d usually be there an hour after closing
- 9pm/10pm — 1am: at a music event taking photographs and editing them on the bus home to send them as I got into bed. If I wasn’t attending an event, this time would be spent on University projects, personal projects, etc.
The above example was during 2nd year (Sep 2013 — June 2014). The worst it might have got was the beginning of Sep 2014 to the end of 2014. On the days I was not at Uni, I would be working a 10am — close shift at work. At this new store we closed at 10pm but we could often be there at midnight. (I was in charge of the women’s footwear department and memorised all of the stock numbers, new everything in stock, etc. The stress got so ridiculous I had to leave the job.) These times my diet was atrocious and I’d literally just go home and go out after that for drinks.
This is not sustainable.
So, let me conclude! We do all have to start somewhere but at some point you absolutely have to break the cycle. When you break the cycle is entirely on you, as it varies drastically from person-to-person. But, once you are comfortable with your workload and you have confidence in your product/service, then charge! Do not settle for less unless you are absolutely certain that you stand to gain far more than the money can provide.
Love and Peace,