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Why Creative People Are Screwed In the New Economy

Wow does this hit my cohorts and I a bit too close to home… and doubtless if you run a small business, or really any service-related business as a vendor, this will make you laugh, then cry, then maybe vomit a bit of serotonin out.

Because we’ve all been through it. And though it’s always a funny story afterwards, it’s never all that hilarious when you’re in that meeting getting criminally undercut… And it happens. So. Damn. Often. Rants and raves welcome in the comments section.

Speaking of which, this reminds me of a fantastic rant by Harlan Ellison, after the jump- good for what ails you.

28 thoughts on “Why Creative People Are Screwed In the New Economy”

  1. Chuck Hues says:

    ABSOLUTELY! I can’t agree MORE!!! The amateurs are making it hard for the professionals because they keep giving it away for EXPOSURE!!! <—Someday, when their kid needs food and they need to pay the plumber– they’ll realize how much their TIME is WORTH.

    I can EXPOSE myself left and right- and the amount of business that will generate is no better than if I go do a GOOD JOB for someone who pays me for my time- and who passes my nam,e to another potential client.

    They’ll learn– but, in the meantime big business assumes that talent should be shared for free- when they won’t even TALK to someone without charging them- – – and we’re supposed to give it away because that’s what ‘everyone else is doing’- – – it’s complete BS!!

    I’m just preaching to the choir here- I’m sure- – – but, DO NOT FORGET THIS: “TIME IS MONEY”. Walk away from any idiot who doesn’t agree when it comes to YOUR time. (Pass it along— don’t let the young people think that ‘exposure’ will get them more work. That is not a ‘given’. They are being fooled.)heers
    TIME ***IS*** Money.

    It’s all we’ve got. It’s a VALUABLE resource!
    Cheers!

  2. Chuck Hues says:

    ABSOLUTELY! I can’t agree MORE!!! The amateurs are making it hard for the professionals because they keep giving it away for EXPOSURE!!! <—Someday, when their kid needs food and they need to pay the plumber– they’ll realize how much their TIME is WORTH.

    I can EXPOSE myself left and right- and the amount of business that will generate is no better than if I go do a GOOD JOB for someone who pays me for my time- and who passes my nam,e to another potential client.

    They’ll learn– but, in the meantime big business assumes that talent should be shared for free- when they won’t even TALK to someone without charging them- – – and we’re supposed to give it away because that’s what ‘everyone else is doing’- – – it’s complete BS!!

    I’m just preaching to the choir here- I’m sure- – – but, DO NOT FORGET THIS: “TIME IS MONEY”. Walk away from any idiot who doesn’t agree when it comes to YOUR time. (Pass it along— don’t let the young people think that ‘exposure’ will get them more work. That is not a ‘given’. They are being fooled.)heers
    TIME ***IS*** Money.

    It’s all we’ve got. It’s a VALUABLE resource!
    Cheers!

  3. SFinSF says:

    I’ve been a professional marketing & advertising writer for 25+ years. On staff and consulting with major international firms (Visa, Wells Fargo, Sprint, etc.) I’m also a published author, have a Master’s degree. 2/3 of what’s out there is eitehr an “internship” – not paid or minimum wage, or they’re saying they want someone with 2-3 years of experience — then provide a “must have” list of software that’s half a page long — oh, PLUS graphic design AND project management and budgeting experience. (oh and — if it’s medical, could you please have an MD, too? If it’s financial, show us your CFA and MBA?)

    HUNH? It’s like they want to combine 4 completely separate jobs and sets of skills into one job (maybe one of which will be done well) — and they want it for 1/3 LESS! No wonder the websites are hardly readable…

  4. SFinSF says:

    I’ve been a professional marketing & advertising writer for 25+ years. On staff and consulting with major international firms (Visa, Wells Fargo, Sprint, etc.) I’m also a published author, have a Master’s degree. 2/3 of what’s out there is eitehr an “internship” – not paid or minimum wage, or they’re saying they want someone with 2-3 years of experience — then provide a “must have” list of software that’s half a page long — oh, PLUS graphic design AND project management and budgeting experience. (oh and — if it’s medical, could you please have an MD, too? If it’s financial, show us your CFA and MBA?)

    HUNH? It’s like they want to combine 4 completely separate jobs and sets of skills into one job (maybe one of which will be done well) — and they want it for 1/3 LESS! No wonder the websites are hardly readable…

  5. Michele Davis says:

    I have worked so hard for 20+ years as a consultant. I was consulting in college and made more money per hour than what recruiters are asking me take now. I’ve been a career writer since I sold my first poem in second grade. This is ridiculous! I have the degrees and experience to back a high hourly up, but it’s TRUE, the amateurs out there seem to think that they can write, and they can’t.

    Writing is a honed ART. It takes constant practice. I’ve had 18 technical/nonfiction books published as well, and I get jobs where they want me to take $15/hr 1099. After taxes and health insurance I wouldn’t even be clearing minimum wage. What is going on in our economy that we aren’t respected?

    I have friends in the same boat. Years of experience with degrees to back that up and they can’t find work. It’s all just a horrible joke.

  6. Michele Davis says:

    I have worked so hard for 20+ years as a consultant. I was consulting in college and made more money per hour than what recruiters are asking me take now. I’ve been a career writer since I sold my first poem in second grade. This is ridiculous! I have the degrees and experience to back a high hourly up, but it’s TRUE, the amateurs out there seem to think that they can write, and they can’t.

    Writing is a honed ART. It takes constant practice. I’ve had 18 technical/nonfiction books published as well, and I get jobs where they want me to take $15/hr 1099. After taxes and health insurance I wouldn’t even be clearing minimum wage. What is going on in our economy that we aren’t respected?

    I have friends in the same boat. Years of experience with degrees to back that up and they can’t find work. It’s all just a horrible joke.

  7. David Jacobson says:

    Thank you does not seem adequate enough for making these videos available to view. I have been feeling so alone and totally frustrated for so long. After watching these I no longer feel so alone. The asking for freebies seems to never end from corporations, individuals, big/small business, nonprofits, chambers of commerce… They seem to believe that it’s their right to have me work for free. When did that attitude enter our society? When did it become OK to ask someone to work for free yet to pour their heart and soul into their work? I want to find a way to get this to the world, to the people that really need to see it. I’m also ready and willing to PAY for it! A sincere Thank You once again.

  8. David Jacobson says:

    Thank you does not seem adequate enough for making these videos available to view. I have been feeling so alone and totally frustrated for so long. After watching these I no longer feel so alone. The asking for freebies seems to never end from corporations, individuals, big/small business, nonprofits, chambers of commerce… They seem to believe that it’s their right to have me work for free. When did that attitude enter our society? When did it become OK to ask someone to work for free yet to pour their heart and soul into their work? I want to find a way to get this to the world, to the people that really need to see it. I’m also ready and willing to PAY for it! A sincere Thank You once again.

  9. Rena Bernstein says:

    WOW!! You nailed it! The creative vendor -client relationship has been trashed.

    The day had come where creativity has little csah value in our society. There are so many people willing to work for peanuts, that it makes it almost impossible for a professional to make a living. I was actually approached by a long time client to design packaging for a new line of product. They actually told me to design the master package from scratch, then show them how it would work across the entire line, without a dime of compensation!! Then they were going to ask 3 other shops to do the same, and they would only pay for the one they liked. There are web sites springing up everywhere doing the same!

    It’s amazing how some businesses that depend on creative thinking can’t see the benefit in paying for it.

  10. Rena Bernstein says:

    WOW!! You nailed it! The creative vendor -client relationship has been trashed.

    The day had come where creativity has little csah value in our society. There are so many people willing to work for peanuts, that it makes it almost impossible for a professional to make a living. I was actually approached by a long time client to design packaging for a new line of product. They actually told me to design the master package from scratch, then show them how it would work across the entire line, without a dime of compensation!! Then they were going to ask 3 other shops to do the same, and they would only pay for the one they liked. There are web sites springing up everywhere doing the same!

    It’s amazing how some businesses that depend on creative thinking can’t see the benefit in paying for it.

  11. Brian Carl says:

    Do you think Harlan Ellison was paid for that rant we just watched?

    Oh and BTW could the owner of this site please give me $5 for making this post? I think I deserve it.

    A agree completely with what Mr. Ellison is saying, but professionals need to adjust to the changing landscape that is going on right now. The internet has made it very easy for people to connect and the sad truth of it is, it’s just supply and demand.

    There are tons of people out there who are willing to work for free and there is nothing that is going to change that. It’s time to adapt and not complain, you have to create a demand for yourself.

    If the demand is for a writer then yeah your screwed, but if the demand if for you, then you have some room to negotiate. You will have to give things away here and there and prove your worth, especially to your community of followers.

    Now I am not saying you should give your services away for free to big companies, they should pay good money for top talent who deserve it, but you can’t rest on your laurels anymore. Start a blog or write an e-book, write for free, but do it for yourself.

    Copy Blogger has a great article about copywriters dealing with a flooded marketplace http://www.copyblogger.com/freelance-copywriter-marketing/

  12. Brian Carl says:

    Do you think Harlan Ellison was paid for that rant we just watched?

    Oh and BTW could the owner of this site please give me $5 for making this post? I think I deserve it.

    A agree completely with what Mr. Ellison is saying, but professionals need to adjust to the changing landscape that is going on right now. The internet has made it very easy for people to connect and the sad truth of it is, it’s just supply and demand.

    There are tons of people out there who are willing to work for free and there is nothing that is going to change that. It’s time to adapt and not complain, you have to create a demand for yourself.

    If the demand is for a writer then yeah your screwed, but if the demand if for you, then you have some room to negotiate. You will have to give things away here and there and prove your worth, especially to your community of followers.

    Now I am not saying you should give your services away for free to big companies, they should pay good money for top talent who deserve it, but you can’t rest on your laurels anymore. Start a blog or write an e-book, write for free, but do it for yourself.

    Copy Blogger has a great article about copywriters dealing with a flooded marketplace http://www.copyblogger.com/freelance-copywriter-marketing/

  13. Ad guy says:

    I’ve been a copywriter and creative director for 16+ years and back in 1994 (my first freelance gig) I charged $50/hr as a low-level copywriter.

    In the past month I’ve had a recruiter call me about a job that was “perfect” for me… at $40/hr and a client who wanted to hire me to write a complete website for him… for $700 (because that’s what he was paying the terrible designer he hired to do it). I’ve seen content websites asking for 1000-word articles on various topics… for $5 per article. And I’ve worked with people who, AFTER I finish the job, say “Well, I’m trying to keep my budget down. Is there any way you can cut your bill a little?”

    The problem is, in this economy, for most people SOMETHING is better than nothing. So there are literally tens of thousands of creative people who are just happy to get something, anything. It’s hard to blame them. I have several friends who haven’t worked a single freelance job in 6 months. They’ve got bills to pay. But it does hurt the rest of us by driving prices down.

    However it’s simple supply and demand. When there’s a huge supply and low demand, our rates have to drop. When the economy is good and we’re booked up and busy, rates go back up. I don’t think there’s any long-lasting devaluation of creative people.

  14. Ad guy says:

    I’ve been a copywriter and creative director for 16+ years and back in 1994 (my first freelance gig) I charged $50/hr as a low-level copywriter.

    In the past month I’ve had a recruiter call me about a job that was “perfect” for me… at $40/hr and a client who wanted to hire me to write a complete website for him… for $700 (because that’s what he was paying the terrible designer he hired to do it). I’ve seen content websites asking for 1000-word articles on various topics… for $5 per article. And I’ve worked with people who, AFTER I finish the job, say “Well, I’m trying to keep my budget down. Is there any way you can cut your bill a little?”

    The problem is, in this economy, for most people SOMETHING is better than nothing. So there are literally tens of thousands of creative people who are just happy to get something, anything. It’s hard to blame them. I have several friends who haven’t worked a single freelance job in 6 months. They’ve got bills to pay. But it does hurt the rest of us by driving prices down.

    However it’s simple supply and demand. When there’s a huge supply and low demand, our rates have to drop. When the economy is good and we’re booked up and busy, rates go back up. I don’t think there’s any long-lasting devaluation of creative people.

  15. Jim Huether says:

    It’s what I’ve seen coming for years now. What gets me the most, is all these companies trying to get people to “volunteer” so many hours a week. Not only is it illegal (unless you sign something and agree), it’s immoral and inhumane. With so many people unemployed and UNDEREMPLOYED, having companies bring ‘volunteers’ to do to work for them is just wrong. I agree that in tough times, people may have to reduce their rates for a while, but this practice of providing material or work for free, is just plain wrong.

  16. Jim Huether says:

    It’s what I’ve seen coming for years now. What gets me the most, is all these companies trying to get people to “volunteer” so many hours a week. Not only is it illegal (unless you sign something and agree), it’s immoral and inhumane. With so many people unemployed and UNDEREMPLOYED, having companies bring ‘volunteers’ to do to work for them is just wrong. I agree that in tough times, people may have to reduce their rates for a while, but this practice of providing material or work for free, is just plain wrong.

  17. Garret Moore says:

    I could have had a house and land for all I’ve given away to the mooches. Ellison echoes the inner-mind chatter I’ve had for decades. The only thing I have gotten for exposure is a sunburn.

    If you truly understand consumer/viewer psychology and behavior you know the value of exposure rarely even makes it to the unconscious mind of the viewer. The conscious associations with your work are almost purely incidental. As a creative, if you don’t understand the audience, you are not communicating, you are advertising. I run my DVR on still for 20 minuets before I watch TV so I can edit out the commercials that only insult the story in which I am hopefully immersed. I don’t advertise, or, expose. I create.

    As creative’s however, we do have a resource for survival in a jungle of predators that crawl, sneak and pounce for only their own gains.

    Creativity, and hopefully creative awareness.

    Thinking ourselves out of the bag is what we do. The challenge is, when the medium changes, we can take advantage by engaging our creative abilities. I refuse to follow the fences to the sheering and slaughtering yards. Rather, I would look for alternate paths to lands that support all our lives.

    Marketing is telling people what they should drink. Consumerism is the laced Kool-aid that has been drunk, laced with the thoughts that we will never, ever, have enough.

    I’ve seen brilliant works that could change the world for the better, killed for only refusing to succumb to the machines drone, “Without advertising, we cant afford to broadcast/publish”. That’s crap. People will pay for quality entertainment, knowledge and information.

    So now we suffer for such empty subjective awareness (or lack therein). Now the machine is broken, the premise gutted. Our good works however are still there. Waiting for a blank canvas, screen, audio speaker, and as viable as day one.

    Without our works the paper is blank, the screens are empty, and the sound is the clock in the room, ticking away the potentials for growing our knowledge. Aren’t we not actually an evolving species?

    Somehow we have been convinced we are secondary to the process, when in fact we represent and demonstrate the reason for it all. We have been tamed by the machine, and we starve because the machine only says there is no market, no resource, so, no audience.

    We make markets. Creative awareness is the building tool for our future. No one turns this off. We might only believe we can’t afford to use it. More crap. It’s always available and packs its own energy.

    It is time we use it to build a new paradigm. But on substance, quality and the gifts of great ideas we as creative’s are midwifes to.

    And, amateurs welcome. Because we know on a level playing field the best players always rise to the top. We just need loose the bookies that only obscure a clear view of the field.

    Millions of years ago, it was the artist-shaman that painted our hopes and dreams as real on the walls of the caves with fish blood , mineral, vegetable colors and stains. The successful hunt could be seen in pictograph and paintings before the hunters left the cave.

    Visualization is powerful reality building material. It is our job to paint that future, and loose the parasites that for all their value, only slowed us down and diverted our compass, unfortunately landing us in this seemingly hopeless port.

    We need to take up our tools and gifts and fix the medium, if in fact it “…is the message”. (McLuhan)

    The better message being, “we can do it, do it right, and do it better, and with real meaning.”

    Don’t feed the Sheep. Feed the imagination.

  18. Garret Moore says:

    I could have had a house and land for all I’ve given away to the mooches. Ellison echoes the inner-mind chatter I’ve had for decades. The only thing I have gotten for exposure is a sunburn.

    If you truly understand consumer/viewer psychology and behavior you know the value of exposure rarely even makes it to the unconscious mind of the viewer. The conscious associations with your work are almost purely incidental. As a creative, if you don’t understand the audience, you are not communicating, you are advertising. I run my DVR on still for 20 minuets before I watch TV so I can edit out the commercials that only insult the story in which I am hopefully immersed. I don’t advertise, or, expose. I create.

    As creative’s however, we do have a resource for survival in a jungle of predators that crawl, sneak and pounce for only their own gains.

    Creativity, and hopefully creative awareness.

    Thinking ourselves out of the bag is what we do. The challenge is, when the medium changes, we can take advantage by engaging our creative abilities. I refuse to follow the fences to the sheering and slaughtering yards. Rather, I would look for alternate paths to lands that support all our lives.

    Marketing is telling people what they should drink. Consumerism is the laced Kool-aid that has been drunk, laced with the thoughts that we will never, ever, have enough.

    I’ve seen brilliant works that could change the world for the better, killed for only refusing to succumb to the machines drone, “Without advertising, we cant afford to broadcast/publish”. That’s crap. People will pay for quality entertainment, knowledge and information.

    So now we suffer for such empty subjective awareness (or lack therein). Now the machine is broken, the premise gutted. Our good works however are still there. Waiting for a blank canvas, screen, audio speaker, and as viable as day one.

    Without our works the paper is blank, the screens are empty, and the sound is the clock in the room, ticking away the potentials for growing our knowledge. Aren’t we not actually an evolving species?

    Somehow we have been convinced we are secondary to the process, when in fact we represent and demonstrate the reason for it all. We have been tamed by the machine, and we starve because the machine only says there is no market, no resource, so, no audience.

    We make markets. Creative awareness is the building tool for our future. No one turns this off. We might only believe we can’t afford to use it. More crap. It’s always available and packs its own energy.

    It is time we use it to build a new paradigm. But on substance, quality and the gifts of great ideas we as creative’s are midwifes to.

    And, amateurs welcome. Because we know on a level playing field the best players always rise to the top. We just need loose the bookies that only obscure a clear view of the field.

    Millions of years ago, it was the artist-shaman that painted our hopes and dreams as real on the walls of the caves with fish blood , mineral, vegetable colors and stains. The successful hunt could be seen in pictograph and paintings before the hunters left the cave.

    Visualization is powerful reality building material. It is our job to paint that future, and loose the parasites that for all their value, only slowed us down and diverted our compass, unfortunately landing us in this seemingly hopeless port.

    We need to take up our tools and gifts and fix the medium, if in fact it “…is the message”. (McLuhan)

    The better message being, “we can do it, do it right, and do it better, and with real meaning.”

    Don’t feed the Sheep. Feed the imagination.

  19. Leigh TAylor says:

    HAAAAAAAAA SOO true!

  20. Leigh TAylor says:

    HAAAAAAAAA SOO true!

  21. Lori Abhari says:

    I couldn’t agree more than if I were living it. We are experienced, talented professionals. Most of us, really good at what we do. It’s so sad that the market and economy has gotten so bad that people feel that taking advantage of some of us is okay.

    It’s not, by any means. We are still very valuable, and some of us too good-natured, always fighting the good fight and feeling for the underdog, giving so much that we are exhausted at the end of the day (or week, or month!) because we devote all of our so called “free time” to the people that can’t afford our services. (So when does out time actually become free?)

    I’m exhausted! I don’t want to be bitter. I’m a happy person, I love what I do, have a great life – a terrific husband and a cat that uses the tub for a litter box. I mean, how much more could you ask for? This is a message for all you frustated talents out there… YOUR TIME IS MONEY, or you won’t have any time left. Life is short- and I say live it up. Help who you can, but don’t neglect yourself, or the people who love you, to not even get paid for your trouble.

    Soldier on…

  22. Lori Abhari says:

    I couldn’t agree more than if I were living it. We are experienced, talented professionals. Most of us, really good at what we do. It’s so sad that the market and economy has gotten so bad that people feel that taking advantage of some of us is okay.

    It’s not, by any means. We are still very valuable, and some of us too good-natured, always fighting the good fight and feeling for the underdog, giving so much that we are exhausted at the end of the day (or week, or month!) because we devote all of our so called “free time” to the people that can’t afford our services. (So when does out time actually become free?)

    I’m exhausted! I don’t want to be bitter. I’m a happy person, I love what I do, have a great life – a terrific husband and a cat that uses the tub for a litter box. I mean, how much more could you ask for? This is a message for all you frustated talents out there… YOUR TIME IS MONEY, or you won’t have any time left. Life is short- and I say live it up. Help who you can, but don’t neglect yourself, or the people who love you, to not even get paid for your trouble.

    Soldier on…

  23. Bob says:

    I learn’t about this the hardway, giving away too many freebees at times when the economy slumped and I was desperate for work. I don’t work for free now at all. And I don’t get nearly as many work offers as I used to. But I feel better for it. So fuck em.

    You wan’t to work for free? Then bend over and take it. One day you’ll wake up to it when its too late.

  24. Bob says:

    I learn’t about this the hardway, giving away too many freebees at times when the economy slumped and I was desperate for work. I don’t work for free now at all. And I don’t get nearly as many work offers as I used to. But I feel better for it. So fuck em.

    You wan’t to work for free? Then bend over and take it. One day you’ll wake up to it when its too late.

  25. Pingback: What a Masters Degree Does in Today’s Job Market : PopTen
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  27. jennifer bone says:

    BRILLIANT ANALOGIES…

  28. George Self says:

    I hear you guys and feel your pain. After all, this subject has been exciting passions for as long as I’ve been in business, which would be since 1972 (OMG, has it been that long?)

    Most of us don’t work in markets where advertising is especially esteemed. Most of us work surrounded by younger competitors who have less legacy costs to support. And, most clients are underfunded. So, someday, we’re all going to be forced to either walk away or accept a write-down — of course, it’s harder to walk away when the mortgage is due.

    The best answer for me has been this: (1) know that you can’t avoid periodic write downs but (2) never give up fees for nothing, always get something back, as in payment now, not at the end of the month. This hasn’t worked for me 100%, but it works more often than not.

    Another thing that has worked for me is to have a full and complete money discussion (how much, why, how, etc) up-front, before any work gets down. Be sure your client knows, upfront, how much the work will cost. Keep it in front of them. As I think back, it seems to me that few of my clients were chiselers — and if so, they weren’t clients very long. No, they simply lost track of what was going on and didn’t realize, until they got the bill, just how much was spent. Then, they reacted by trying to get the fee reduced.

    Recently, we have been experimenting with a “first time free” concept where we agree to produce a first project for free, but only for a client who we think has good potential and only where we have in writing that we get a second, follow up assignment at regular rates. It’s early times, but the early returns are encouraging.

    Most successful in payment terms, but least successful in new business terms, is the old standby of progress payments. You know, 1/3 upon acceptance, 1/3 upon some midpoint (like a beta delivery) and the final 1/3 upon completion. This helps, but I find it seems to produce a lot of discussion upon what is “final” and what is “complete.”

    The write-down is a fact of life. It has been for years. I doubt that will ever change. Learning to manage it seems to be the most productive way to go. That means managing not just your client’s expectations, but also yours. Once you get past this with a client, focus on providing the best damn “customer experience ever.” Ultimately, that’s the best way to escape “write-down blues.”

  29. Joel Black says:

    This is so true, it almost becomes a game sometimes. Glad to see someone made a video we can laugh at! If you figure all the real life scenarios that went into making this video funny, it cost about a trillion dollars!

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