To The Internet and Creatives: An Open Rant About Getting No Collar Jobs & The Value of Creative Work

Preface

Andrew Ross’s book Nice Work If You Can Get It was insightful and a very good read.  Ross studied job insecurity and the new trends of the workplace and did so at an emerging time.  He contrasts the sweatshop style labor to the new trending style of creatives in the U.S. This rant should in no way take away from the piece of work he wrote, because it was very thoughtful and I enjoyed the piece. 

Rant

Rq7Ay5aIn terms of what inspiration the book struck for me, the answer is not a ton.  It’s more of the same, once again here we are reading about no collar workers struggling for a consistent paycheck.  This is all becoming cliche to say and it’s honestly frustrating to read over and over again.  But then there’s still the dream that keeps getting brought up and the ‘anomalies’ who somehow beat the odds and make this grey area of creativity work and become millionaires.  9-5’s suck.  Creatives know it, the internet knows it, the companies hiring them know it and the workers know it.  Creatives are creating and innovating at an ever-growing rate.  It’s the whole idea of how much is a creatives work worth? This isn’t a simple issue though.  There’s our greed as a society for pure wealth and obtaining that wealth through exploitation of workers underneath us.  I’d say for a lot of companies they’re capitalizing of the grey area of paying creatives and in reality are having them produce more work for them and in turn pay them less.  I’ll go into that in a bit, but there’s definitely in some cases an opportunity for companies to maximize on this concept.

big-business-4Disney owns franchises of billion dollar companies and they’re still paying a minimum wage job to many.  It’s the backwards mentality that exists in our society where your employer tells you that you’re lucky to have this job because they could find someone to replace you in 5 minutes, while it’ll take you way longer to find a half decent job in this economy.  But that’s a backwards way of thinking, because as a laborer for any company, I’m contributing as an employee to the wealth of the company and it’s shareholders.  When you look at the trends of creative labor we have a legitimate claim to the share of the wealth and at the minimum a living wage.  I believe more people are giving up on the 9-5’s because they realize how ridiculous they are and that probably ties into the amount of competition that exists for these creative jobs.  It’s not like people are leaving wall street to become financial advisers because they think the job conditions are better, people are leaving these business jobs to open restaurants and chase their dreams they’ve always had but felt guilty chasing.  But having that dream is enough to keep going, it’s enough to get many away from their job that’s a burden, so even if it comes too late in life for many, it’s always been there.  Just look at Will Smith’s face walking out of the building after getting the job at the end of Pursuit of Happyness. 

That right there is pure euphoria, and while the scenario itself is somewhat contradictory to my previous example because he’s getting a 9-5 style job, it still is the whole idea of having the means to chase a dream.  

Coming back to the idea of the grey area of paying creatives, I want to build on what I briefly touched the surface of earlier.  It’s not only hard for artists to put a monetary value on their work, but if that’s the case then how can another person put a value on it.  With this being said, maybe the companies are taking advantage of that grey area and as a result are getting away with paying less for more work out of these no collar workers.  Maybe it’s a stretch, but how do you pay a social media worker who handles website maintenance and posting on blogs/social media platforms.  Do you pay them by the word or do you pay them by the hour or do you pay them salary?  Is that worth more than a minimum wage?  Then there’s a whole grey area a bit deeper which is tracking productivity.  From a personal stand point, creativity comes and goes, and when it’s on I end up being extremely productive and other times I can’t get anything done because I’m not feeling creative.  So there’s a certain expectation for these employers that you’ll be able to consistently produce something that will in turn generate profit for the company and their investors, and that’s not always guaranteed with artists and other creatives.  With this all being said, so many of these huge companies have more than enough money to pay employee’s so why are companies still having trouble bringing in full time creatives?

From my personal experience with graphic design, it’s often difficult to charge clients for my services.  I’ve struggled for a long time to come up with an across the board price list, because I feel as though I’m either charging too much comparatively to the clients budgets, or not enough for the amount of effort I’m putting in. To give an example some people come to me looking for quick photo retouching or typography work which might only take me a short period of time.  It is definitely a difficult thing to give a price on, but it’s also a very common service that clients come to me asking for, and it’s something I’m able and willing to do.  I spent years fluctuating my prices based on the market and other designers around me trying to find the right balance, and still often times have trouble doing that.  I also have tried being creative with my approach to putting a price on my graphics through using an app called TimeLime powerful-time-reporting@2x-ad8e55000cdc3561ff29e827725234c9The app was basically designed as a productivity tool to keep track of time spent on projects.  I used the app to basically clock my hours and have clients pay me hourly.  The app installs a little button on the menu bar on your computer and you simply punch in and out as you’re working.  I think they were dissatisfied or thought I was lying because they never seemed to realize how much work gets put into creating work for them.  To an extent I think that can be applied to creatives working for a large company because the last thing a creative wants is to have someone watching over their shoulder to make sure they’re productive.

I think it’s the pursuit of happiness that we’re after.  It’s the whole idea of having the dream making these ‘early struggles’ worth it to end up like someone we idolize who seems to have ‘made it’.  But as creatives it’s our job to find creative ways to market ourselves and problem solve to make it and get by.  Obviously it comes with a higher competition rate for jobs and often times it can be hard to get jobs coming out of college overwhelmed with debt etc.  But people going into ‘more practical’ jobs still need to sell themselves, it’s just that the means to do everything necessary to succeed is already set in stone.  This whole idea of no collar is relatively new and will become easier to accomplish in the future.  This whole grey area of paying creatives will get easier, and having no collar workers in most business styles will become commonplace.

If anyone is still interested this article is really interesting, and is related to my rant.
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gil-laroya/why-creatives-absolutely-_b_4320305.html

Final Thought: Money can’t buy happiness but it can help.

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