It’s a tough world out there. Making a living through creative work is difficult. Not only do you face many obstacles, but plenty don’t understand what you do. All they see is the micro seconds it took to take a photo, the minutes in drawing a logo, and the few hundred words of copy written. They don’t see the years and years of effort and practice to learning a craft.
I want you to succeed.
The world can only get better with creatives in the forefront, especially in the future when automation, robots, and artificial intelligence replace jobs we take for granted. Today is filled with uncertainty for everyone. Not just you. Don’t worry. You are in a good space. It’s hard for a computer to replicate a creative person.
With all that said, you are your biggest obstacle. There are many instances when you have been your own worst enemy.
I’m sorry if this is blunt, but you need to hear this.
Don’t complain about clients.
It’s in vogue to complain.
Complaining is easy. It feels good in the moment, but it isn’t a good look. Get over it. The world is not going to bend over forward for you. It’s a hard place where sometimes hard work isn’t rewarded. The sooner you accept that the easier work becomes. No one wants to work with complainers.
People who get shit done are the best people to work with.
Leave the complaining to the amateurs.
You get shit done.
One other thing, there are good clients and bad clients. Keep the good ones. Say arrivederci to the bad ones. Instead of complaining, know that you have the ability to fire clients. Don’t work with people who take advantage of you, who don’t pay you on time, or who are just plain assholes.
Give a price.
It can feel awkward and downright uncomfortable, but settle on a price as soon as possible. This lets you focus on the work and allows for more certainty when getting paid. Clients don’t like being surprised by the price. If you tell them the price after you did the project, more often than not, the client will always think you were too expensive. Then they are unlikely to get your services again.
“But what if my price turned out to be too low? I worked much longer than I needed and even spent money along the way.”
Then treat it as a learning experience. Next time, you charge higher. Never give a price and change it in the middle of a transaction. That’s just bad form. Take the loss, learn and charge more for the next client.
When in doubt, charge a little more than you are comfortable. You can always lower the price later. The market dictates price. If the client realizes that he has to pay to get quality work then they will pay for it. If the creative is charging too much compared to the rest of the market, then the client will look elsewhere. If the creative has an impressive body of work, clients will be willing to pay a little more. If the creative sets it too high, then the client will look elsewhere.
Don’t set a price that is too low. You don’t want to be slaving away for peanuts. You are not a factory spewing out low cost commodity products. You need to know your value and the value of your work. If you want to make a living from your creative work, then charge accordingly.
You get the customers you charge for. You don’t want customers like this guy.
6 Reasons You Need to Charge More (from an SEO perspective, but applies to creatives also)
A few weeks ago, we announced that we were looking for writers. One writer, I’m going to call him Buck, submitted an impressive resume with a wonderful sample piece. I was looking forward to possibly working with him in the future, but first, we needed to do an interview. We exchanged phone numbers and decided on a time and place.
Thirty minutes before the interview, he emailed saying he had a personal errand and couldn’t show. I didn’t see the email because I’m not plugged into my computer like a walking cyborg. Despite having my number, he didn’t text. When it was time for him to show, I sent him a text, “I’m just inside. Are you near?” That’s when I discovered his personal errand. I told him I could wait if he still wanted to show up. No response. I haven’t heard from him since.
Sometimes, you are your own worst enemy.
Just do what you say and you’ll be fine.
And don’t get in your own way.
Submit work on time.
I met with a client recently. I was surprised because he needed to replace their graphic designer. Their guy did great work. The menu looked appetizing, the standees were beautiful, and the posters reflected quality work.
“I’m happy with their work, but they aren’t submitting on time. As a result, we’re unable to advertise in a timely manner. They are starting to affect our bottom line.”
Creativity is subjective. Submitting work on time is clear cut. You either did it or you didn’t.
Sometimes quality work takes time, but in many cases, good work isn’t being submitted because the creative wants to get it perfect. Know when good enough is good enough. Perfect is overrated. I’d rather have good work when I need it than perfect work too late.
Never stop the personal work.
First – you may not personally love all your client work. Personal work is something you can proudly bare your heart and soul to the world. It will feel damn good! No one telling you what to do. No rules you are forced to follow. No one looking over your shoulder for final approval. It is all yours. You can afford to take risks which means you’ll get better and your work will continue to improve.
Second – personal work is your calling card. Think of personal work as something to show potential clients what you can do. Personal work has a much higher likelihood of getting shared across the internet. It’s what will awe people into following your work and maybe even one day, hiring you to do a job.
It’s ok to say no.
Really it is.
If there’s one thing I would like to change within Philippine culture, it would be our penchant to say yes, even when we mean no.
I would rather get an honest no than a half-hearted yes. The no tells me to move on and look elsewhere. The half-hearted yes wastes my time and sets up eventual failure.
There’s nothing wrong with not having the time, not having the ability, or not having the motivation to do a job.
But there’s an exception to this rule, there are times to say yes to everything. Say yes when you are starting out. You never know where the opportunities are. So there is no job too small because you haven’t done anything yet. You might not have the ability yet, you definitely won’t have a portfolio, you won’t have any of the contacts to give you more work, but you likely have all the time in the world. When starting out, saying yes to everything is a decent strategy.
When you experience a little success, that’s when you need to start thinking about when to say no. Saying no frees you up to doing what you really want to do. Whether that’s to focus on an important client, to free up time for more personal work, or even to get the time to chill and enjoy life. Saying no is magical in that sense.
Know where you are in your journey. Know what to focus on. Say no to the rest.
It’s my hope to see more and more creative people in our beloved town of Cebu. It’s something we as a race are innately good at, but we lack the experience to get out of our own way.
Being creative doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. It is hard work. It is filled with doubt, frustration and at times even anger. That’s normal. It’s the price we pay to do work we love.
Keep at it. Don’t waste time. If you don’t have a paying client, focus on personal work, talk to as many people as you can, send out emails, work on your website, finally finish that portfolio, work.