What is your worth? Knowing and believing that you deserve to be treated with respect and fairness is a
critical part of expecting more for yourself and your creative business. In my last post, I talked about Being Confident. I shared my experience as a creative individual…the how and why I wasted so much time building my business. I also shared how I went about boosting my own confidence…which happend without even having the intention to do so!
In today's post, I want to address an issue that evokes an emotional response in me. This issue, while not restricted to creative businesses, I feel is a rampant problem. I promise to do my best not to jump up on my soapbox and preach! Rather, as you read I want you to think about what you think your services are worth….and what you are worth. Ask yourself what is and isn't fair and what you do and don't deserve as a creative professional.
For a minute, let's take this entire concept out of the creative industry altogether. Here is the scenario: You interview for and are offered a job as an independent contractor to do some marketing for a company that manufactures yogurt. You bring to the table….experience, passion and a high level of skill. However, when you get to HR to discuss your salary, you discover that you are not going to be getting paid in dollars and cents. Rather, they are going to give you a case of yogurt per month.
Here are your job requirements:
- Create one new recipe per week using the yogurt that they have given you as payment.
- Provide all additional products needed to create these recipes.
- Photograph each step of the process.
- Generate a document that includes, photos, a list of ingredients and the procedure for each recipe.
- Post each recipe on the blog of the yogurt company.
- Be available to answer any questions or comments for your post.
- Use your social media networks to promote each post.
- You must also conduct taste tests once a month…travel expenses, spoons and small cups are not reimbursed.
Let me ask you…..
WOULD YOU TAKE THAT JOB?
I highly doubt it….why? I'm sorry…I can't hear that. Speak up…what's that you say? That is RIDICULOUS?? Yes, my friend, it certainly is ridiculous. So then, why do creatives take work for free or for such a nominal fee? Part of it may come back to confidence…or that you may think you need more experience. For some artists, providing free design to see their name in print or a link back is acceptable just because they do it for the love of it. This is not a criticism. Everyone is entitled to make their own choices. But I put it to you…if your desire is to make a living at your craft, don't you deserve to be paid for those services?
What is your worth? I can't answer this specifically, as each of us is unique with our own set of circumstances, goals and desires. I can say that fundamentally speaking, you are are worth:
- being paid a fair wage for your work and services
- believing in (and yes, I honestly do believe in you!)
Now I am not saying that I have this whole independent, per project designer thing down to a science at all times. If anyone understands the unpredictable nature of the creative industry, it's you. Far from it! I am always tweaking my proposals and looking for better ways to market myself. Also, I want to make it clear that I do from time to time do things for nothing….well….not nothing really. I do things for which I do not get paid in money. I take each situation that comes my way and weigh the pros and cons very carefully, as I would like it to ideally benefit my company in some way. This is not out of selfishness either. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to grow a business and a brand, so I am careful to pick and choose wisely.
Some reasons I may choose do gratis work:
- charity….anything that raises money for a worthy cause is definitely worth doing in my opinion
- situations where the marketing value is highly beneficial
- helping colleagues promote their businesses
- opportunities where I can reuse a project for other purposes
- helping manufacturers who have supported me professionally by doing things like providing materials for workshops or giveaways…in other words…it is a fair trade and benefits both parties
What I WILL NOT DO…is work for a company for free or materials when the purpose of my work is to promote their product in order to generate sales. That is marketing…and if they are making money from my design, then I believe that it is worth a paycheck. This is my opinion and it is a strong one! If you disagree, I respect that, but we will have to agree to disagree.
I just would like to take a moment to say that this was a really hard post for me to write. Believe it or not, I spent several days on this. Why? Well, this is a touchy subject amongst craft and hobby designers. There has been a long and arduous argument when it comes to working for product vs. working for pay. People feel passionately about this topic. Plus, I'm not a big fan of riling people up or upsetting anyone. So, my words here are not meant to make anyone feel bad. We each have to make decisions when it comes to how we run our businesses. I have learned from experience though….if someone asks you to work for free or product, it is not like an interview. More likely than not, they will come back asking for more free things, not with an offer of a paying gig. It may not sound nice, but it the truth.
Also, I would like to add…this is strictly from my perspective as a craft designer, not from the perspective of a company. They have their own host of challenges. Start ups and small companies, for example, may not have the funds initially to outsource design work. However, there are creative alternatives. Putting systems in place such as an endorsement policy can be of help. That's a post for another day though.
What we are talking about is your worth. So, I will leave you with these questions to ponder…
Do you think that accepting unpaid positions diminish one's worth?
And…do you think that it diminishes one's perceived value to someone who may be hiring?
And…do you think it undervalues other creative professionals?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this…but I ask only that we keep this conversation professional. I realize that this is a hot button topic, so please, be respectful and for goodness sake, please do not name any specific entity…generalities are best. I would never call anyone out on the carpet in such a public way…it could be hurtful and damaging. As professionals we need to keep the highest level of integrity at all times. I thank you for being considerate and thoughtful in advance.
I also would like to remind you that I read and reply to every comment personally. I'm looking forward to our conversation. 🙂