Not All Creatives Are Made The Same
***I wrote this post 4 years ago and stumbled upon it as I was updating my site. Before I deleted it, I read it and found it's something that still speaks to me today. Give it a read. I hope you enjoy it.***
Plug any occupational label into the post title and it would be true. Yet, it seems like there's a common stereotype associated with creatives. One that has never sat well with me. And since it was brought to my attention again recently I had to post about it to set the record straight. The other day, I sat back in complete awe as the following was explained to me.
Ouch. I really can't stand that "artist" stereotype. You know the one - lazy, fly by the seat of their pants, non-planners, zero business savvy, don't take money seriously, and will make pretty pictures regardless of whether they get paid or not. And trying to escape the stereotype isn't something I usually focus on. My work speaks for itself. I know I make a good impression, but when I hear someone speak like this, I can't help but tense up in disgust.
I feel sorry for anyone who buys into the stereotype. They, obviously, have a very skewed view of the creative industry. The stereotype they describe is simply not true. Yes, for some, what is described, may be the case - just as there are those of us who work incredibly hard, stick to a regular schedule and meet deadlines 100% of the time. He may have only worked with creatives that play into the mold described. But there are so many different types of creatives. To pack all of us into one very poorly categorized group would be ridiculous. I, for one, am NOT at all like the stereotypical creative that was being described to me. I work a regular 9-5 schedule, am very structured in my work, am available during business hours, have never missed a deadline, work incredibly hard, and have great communication skills.
While I appreciate a good testimonial, I'm always a bit taken aback when my clients rave about my services and professionalism. How they've always been afraid to work with a creative because of all the stories they've heard. I'm sure there are plenty of creatives out there who work just as hard as I do and who take their work and reputation seriously. So why are clients so shocked with my level and quality of service? I think we can begin with pricing, respect, and experience.
I know how you crazy creative types have your own special way of working. You live in a completely different world than the rest of us. It isn't in your make-up to stay on a particular schedule or work regular hours... but we understand and make adjustments.
1) Pricing and Experience: Simply put, you get what you pay for. I wish more clients would choose reputable designers so they can avoid the stereotype that was described to me. Mind you, I'm not saying that designers who are starting out automatically fall into that stereotype. There are many that have a natural ability for the business end of things, understand the importance of a schedule and are an absolute pleasure to work with! I'm simply saying that, for some, invested experience directly influences the ability to deliver a quality product as well as trusted working relationship in both the eyes of the client and vendor. For some, it may not come naturally and take some time to develop the skill set that many clients look for in a professional working relationship.
2) Respect: Both parties, the client and the vendor, should respect the creative industry. I say both parties because there are too many creatives who are working for free or at far too low a wage, on spec, or via "competitions." This is destroying our industry. What we do is important and is necessary or it wouldn't be sought out. Get paid for your work or you simply will not be taken seriously. Of course, there are a few conditions (and I mean a few) in which work for a reduced rate or even done for free is okay, but you need to pay your bills and eat!
The client should also respect the creative industry and stop trying to talk creatives out of their hourly wage or project fee. There is a reason a rate is set. It's not just a random number. Yes, there is still overhead we have to account for. Creative software is not cheap. Investing in keeping up to date on all of the latest and greatest techniques can also cost. So, please, stop asking us to work for less or for free. And please, do not hold a competition for the "best design." Hire a professional who will ask you to fill out a brief and will research your brand properly to create something that reflects your needs well. There's much more to design than creating the end result - hours of research, time brainstorming, etc. It's all very important to the process. Respect that.
To my creative friends, it's time to educate prospective clients - we're not all the same. They'll see the difference in a designer, artist, photographer or other creative who has the experience. We need to let people know why they shouldn't hire their niece or nephew, just because they are on their high school yearbook club, to design their brochure... While they say they "know computers" and have a "keen eye for layout" it's more than likely not going to be pretty or functional. We need to educate on why hiring and investing in a professional will bring professional results. We can change the client perception of creatives above, created by previous poor hiring decisions, and bring their outlook up to the level of professionalism we actually provide.
We also need to work towards squashing the ridiculous stereotype of "creatives don't need to be paid as well as others." I'm so tired of hearing of fellow designers doing work for free or less because a client has promised them future work. Take it from someone with 15 years in the business - that is a line of bull. If your work is valuable to the client, they will pay you for it. Don't release files until you've received payment. Simple. Your time is worth payment - good payment depending on your experience. Don't enter these contests where one person out of thousands gets paid for their creation. How awful is that? In fact, why don't I follow suit with a comparable competition of my own? Hey there, chefs! I have a big party I'm going to throw! I have $2500 to pay, but I'd like at least 1000 of you to submit 3 of your best dishes to my attending friends and family before I decide on who to pay. For those who do not win, it will be good exposure and I'm SURE you'll get some business from those attending. Good luck! Crazy, right? Same goes for creative competitions. Stop. Just stop.
If we continue to let these stereotypes play out, we won't get anywhere. I urge you to help educate younger designers, photographers, artists, and other creatives. Working for free is only expected from us, as a group, because there are some of us who are falling for the con. Your work is a means to pay your bills. You deserve better. Do not work for free.
Maybe when we demand respect and include the proper terms in our contracts, we'll be taken a bit more seriously and people won't be so quick to classify us into that horrible creative stereotype I've grown to loathe so much. So, protect yourself and your industry. You're worth it. Act like it.