Thursday, October 21, 2010

PYC: Pay Your Creatives

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking, and rethinking, regarding my approach to business and marketing. There has to be more opportunity out there for more steady work, but it's very hard to find. On top of that, living just outside of NYC puts me at a great disadvantage at times. There are lots of chances for work in the City, but the problem lies in the over-saturated market. I keep going though, picking up clients here and there, but I'd be lying if I said I was completely content with the state of things.

One thing we creative professionals hear a lot is "Our budget is tight, can you work with us?" or "I didn't really have money for it, I was just hoping we could work something out." There are lots of other variables, but they all mean the same thing: "Your work is great, I just don't want to pay for it."

Before I go on any further, I'd like to call your attention to a post I found today, written by Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir on the same topic: We Really Love Your Stuff, But We're on a Really Tight Budget. It's a fast read and well-worth the time. Check it out and then come back for more.

Well-written, right? I thought so. Personally, I don't mind doing work for free if I truly believe it will present me with a great opportunity down the road, or even at the next traffic light. I just get very irritated by people who have no intention of ever contacting you again, or ever using what you give them in any way that might actually promote you. Lets face it, times are hard, and I know that as well as the next guy, but if we don't help each other, who will? The government? Not likely. We need to start working with one another again. The concept of mom and pop businesses was sold off long ago so they could bulldoze those avenues and put in big box conglomerates that sell everything from mattresses, to portrait services, to clothing, with some luggage, pharmaceuticals, and groceries in the mix as well.

Here's the problem that most people don't realize: Creative professionals, such as writers, painters, photographers, and craftsmen of other types as well, all carry a huge burden. The burden to make you happy, or to look good, or to sound intelligent, or to entertain you, etc. From a photography perspective, I have spent not only money on education, but I've also spent countless hours which I'm sure cumulate to months, if not more, honing my craft. I hone my craft for myself and for my clients, but nobody pays me. I've done dozens of personal projects that eat up my time and my money, just so I can be prepared for any situation that may be even a slight bit demanding on me and my skills. We break our backs, some of us literally, to get "the shot" and at times it's not even for a client, it's for ourselves, so we can learn to better serve you, should you ever need us to recreate a situation. We need to know how to do a job going into it. We're not office temps, we don't go after work where we can be trained when we show up on day 1. People expect more of us, we are expected to know lighting, lens selection, camera settings, tricks of the trade, thinking on our feet, rigging equipment, and how to set everything up and tear it down in the most time efficient manner, all while calculating all of the environmental variables as we do so. Oh yeah, and we have to make the end product look good, too.

All this, for you to nickel and dime us? We decide what our work is worth, and it's not easy. We don't just pull numbers out of thin air. We factor in our experience, what we've done over the years to get to where we are, we factor in materials, labor, hired help if any is needed, overhead costs, hours spent proofing and editing, finished deliverable medium, plus lots of other things that go into your project. We're not looking to get rich and retire off of just your job, we aren't trying to rip you off, or ask for more than what it's worth. It wouldn't make any sense if we did because we actually like what we do. We aren't trying to make one big, huge sale and then retire. We look forward to ongoing projects and repeat clients. The truth is, most of us still under-charge for fear we may not get what we ask for, and then we still hear resistance. We train as rigorously and as regularly as any start athlete, yet we're paid a teeny tiny fraction of the relative dollar amount.

There is a link at the bottom of the article I posted, and if you didn't get to watch the video that it links to, it really sums a lot of this up, so here it is:

The bottom line is, we put in our time, effort, and money to get where we are. You wouldn't even like us enough to want to hire us if our portfolios didn't impress you. We weren't born knowing how to do all of this (well, maybe Chase Jarvis or Joey L, but that's it.), it takes lots of hard work and dedication, and yes, even some literal blood, sweat, and tears. We're always flattered when someone appreciates our hard work and talents, but flattery doesn't pay the bills, it doesn't put food on the table. You want beautiful portraits of your wonderful family, and if your boss didn't pay you for whatever it is you do, you wouldn't be able to feed your wonderful family. We just want to be able to feed ours as well, and I really don't think that's too much to ask.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

More soon.

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