Debunking the Myths

When you have a job in a creative field, producing creative works for the world to see, there can be nothing more satisfying. Especially when a job is well done, there was time and attention dedicated to it. The feeling of putting your name to a piece of work that you are proud out is unimaginable to those who don’t seek that same kind of fulfilment. Perhaps they are in another industry, whether it be banking, sales, retail. Each having their own conditions for satisfying work. But, for a creative person working and producing work, this is what satisfies us;

The ability to create work you can be proud of for others to enjoy.

This is what the vast majority of people in a creative profession will tell you when they are asked about what satisfies them in their job, and why they do what they do. because there is nothing more than ‘graphic designer’. What type of graphics, who for, what area, what do you specialise in? When you are asked about your job in a creative field, lift the lid on what drives you to it, why you’re passionate about it. I use the prefix ‘passion’ because if you work in the creative field, you are already passionate about it. To work at a job that is creatively demanding, also demands passion, and a vision.

You don’t just fall into a creative profession, you’re driven to it.

Although a creative profession can be an incredibly satisfying career choice, with many branching paths you can take within your field. There are still so many popular myths, in the general census, about working as a creative professional. It’s important to debunk these myths to the general public, those seeking to work with a creative professional, and those seeking to work in it.

Here are 6 popular myths about having a creative profession;

  • ‘Say yes to everything.’

Unfortunately, when you first start off in a creative field, you’re going to hear this from amateur creatives, perhaps those of which already work in the field, and those of which want to, or just heard this advice on a creative forum etc. This is absolutely not the thing to do, in fact, the complete opposite is needed. Say no as much as you can. Saying no frees up your time and creates a margin for you. Time that could be better spent on more important things in your business (that’s right, you’re a business now). When you have margin, you have breathing room. Room to think about your next more, and room to plan what direction you want to go it, what you want to build. Knowing what to spent your time on so you can increase your revenue.

If you say yes to everything that comes up, where are you going to get the time to spend on growing your business, your network, your platform, and learning more about your field, learning a new skill? All of these can’t be done let alone one if you don’t have the breathing room to think about your next move. This is not just saying no in your work, this is saying no in your personal life also. Sometimes you need to make sacrifices to become better at what you do.

  • ‘Take on every client you can get.’

This segways from the last point. Do not take on every client you can get. This will mean, inevitably working with bad clients. Bad clients are bad for a number of reasons. They do not respect your process or work, they do not see you as a business or realise that as a professional, like them, you also have a vision for your business and it’s not a hobby, they tell you what they want and how to do it, and they try to low-ball your rates, not realising the value that you are trying to create for them to solve the problem that they came to you with. These are just some of the ways in which a client can misinterpret your skills and services. And when someone doesn’t interpret the years worth of work, study and practice that went into learning the skills you know, it’s up to you to filter them out, it’s up to you to look for those red flags and say no to them. It’s your responsibility to inform future clients about your professional and how you handle yourself. You call the shots. You go to a mechanic when you want your car fixed, they fix it and charge you a fee. You go to a designer when you want a new logo, they make a new logo and charge you a fee (I realise there are subjective and objective meanings for both scenarios, but at the base of it, this is what happens).

Creative professionals are not making things for the sake of making things, they are deliberately creating solutions to directly solve the problems they are presented with.

  • ‘You wont get paid.

[See also – ‘It’s harder to get paid’, ‘you wont get paid on time’ etc.] You will get paid. Because, it’s illegal not to get paid for a service you provided to a client, regardless of whether they liked it or not. If the client was dissatisfied, they won’t use you anymore. Getting paid is entirely up to you. You have to have a process in place for dealing with this scenario. Find out how much your time and services to the client are worth (on a case by case basis, some projects may be larger, you may charge by a package with added features etc.). Next, you must have a contract, start off with a template. You can find creative invoicing and contract templates from forums, communities and even online design stores. But for it to be most effective, you should know how your contract works, sentence for sentence.

Read a creative law book, know the law for the work you do, who owns the rights, when do you transfer the rights, do you even transfer rights at all, what permissions do you allow your work, how long after the project ends do you get paid, when do you transfer final project deliverables to the client, what happens in the event that you terminate the contract, do you get paid half now, half later? These are all important things that you must know when making a contract for someone to sign.

But the most important thing to know is that, contracts don’t have to be legal jargon and you don’t have to be a lawyer to draft (create) one. All that is required is that the other person understand it so that they can sign it. Never deliver the files until the money is in your bank.

  • ‘You don’t have set hours.’

While this is slightly true, you have guideline hours, as in, you know the world works from 9am to 5pm everyday. This is a guideline for you to follow, knowing that it is most likely that the client will respond to your emails in these hours, not at 9pm at night when you could still be working on the project. That’s the thing, because you are not accountable to a ‘higher-up’, unless you consider the client your boss, which you shouldn’t. You are you’re own boss. You set you’re own hours, this may mean that you start working at 6am, or finish at 1am. No matter what it takes to get the work down. Most of the time you will be working from your computer or laptop which will be in your home. You’re working for yourself so there is always work to be done. In the form of client work, working on your portfolio, social media engagement, website maintenance. There is always something you can be working on, and why not, you’re working on your own business, so you’re always going to benefit from it, and besides, you love what you do, right? So you will love doing it anyway.

Try to stick to a ‘healthy’ 9-5 schedule. It will be easy if you are coming form an office scenario and helps you maintain communication with the outside world who will also be working the same times as you are. It helps mentally, when you’re fitting into the status quo of work hours, unless you start earlier in the day and get more done. This is an even better feeling. You may start working at 6am on your own personal projects, then start on client work at 9am.

  • ‘You need to live in a city to get noticed.’

While working and living in a city is helpful for meeting new people in your industry and networking, creating new avenues of potential working partners and opportunities. There is by no means any ‘need’ to live in a city. You can work in an entirely remote area, but still find as many opportunities. All by means on the internet. The internet has create a global village where you can make new connections, create job opportunities, and network with people from all across the world, let alone in one city. Granted, the ability to meet and communicate in parson with a person with similar interests, profession, or a potential client. It is still entirely possible from the comfort of you home. All the people you could ever connect with it in your industry are all accessible through the device in your pocket.

Maintain a good social media presence, post often, but about relevant, valuable topics, reach out to people, join a community of like-minded individuals, say thank you, start a conversation, and congratulate others on their achievements. It’s about making an effort, the internet relieves you of some of the social anxiety that is meeting face to face, so there really has never been an easier time to meet new people in your field who share similar goals and values.

  • ‘It’s easy.’

Working a creative profession does mean that for a lot of your work, or at least for some part, you will be sitting at a desk for a number of hours, editing, working, post-producing the work you created, so by no means is it demanding in a physical sense, like working as a farmer etc., someone who exerts physical energy while working. That being said, to working creatively is to work long hours while maintain concentration and conceptual thinking. Akin to driving long hours, you feel tired, and mentally drained after long sessions, especially staring at a screen 3 feet in front of you for prolonged periods of time (Which is why it’s important to get up, take a break and walk away from time to time).

But calling a creative career easy is entirely false. The study of its history, the ‘why’ to what you are doing, and how you do it, the learning of processes and implementing of them, the complete theory of the art form, why is this colour the way it is, why use this typeface for the branding, visual hierarchy, colour theory, spacing, typography, forms, metrics. Then the communication skills required to speak to both existing and new clients, holding your professionalism, learning new skills, learning the software required for you to do your job to its fullest capacity, not to mention learning new softwares as they come out in order to stay on top and even get ahead, knowledge of trends, and a foresight to what will come next in the industry and how to stay on top of it. Managing a budget, writing contracts, learning about the creative laws that apply to your work and industry, pricing your services, doing your taxes. Maintain a social media presence, building your existing social presence, expanding and repurposing existing work for various other formats, including video, blogs posts, and then the learning of how to use those tools.

Not to mention a myriad of other technical jargon from applicable from various creative fields. Then after that you can have a life.

Saying creativity is easy is insult all of those who work in the field professionally, those before us, and those who have dedicated years to the learning of new knowledge and the ability to make a living from something that not everybody can do without years of learning.

These are a few of the most popular myths about creative jobs. It’s our responsibility to inform and educate all those who believe that these myths exist in our industry. We must educate those who are unaware of our situation, much like we may be aware of the struggles in others industry, we must be respectful of other industry practices. It is not out of ignorance or disrespect that we do not know about other industry struggles, it is only because we have not been informed otherwise.

Be respectful of others struggles, talk to them and pass on the knowledge of our struggles in our industry. Once we understand their struggles, they will understand ours.

Listen and learn. It’s mutually beneficial.