Creative Shaming

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I’ve seen a lot of talk around the internet in the past week basically shaming creatives for wanting to earn a living.

Sarah Madison wrote about pirate sites that give people free access to books, and how there is a growing culture of entitlement around the creative industries. It’s a great post, read it. She also wrote a follow up … read that too! She gives us the usual reasons why people feel entitled to free books, such as they can’t afford to fund their entertainment needs, that writers already earn enough money (yeah, right) and that creatives should do it for the love and not the money (this is my favourite btw, I’ve heard it many times, often from people without a creative bone in their body).

No sooner had I read this than Facebook attacked my senses with an article about a website that alerts its members to legitimate free books on offer from sales sites. Of course I didn’t save the article, and now I regret it. Yes, it’s legitimate … the Bookbub website trawls through ‘deals of the day’ and alerts its subscribers, who can then go and download free or heavily discounted books to their heart’s content. The site is essentially Groupon for readers, but I wonder if it will add to the erosion of the book industry as we know it, it’s certainly feeding the culture of entitlement.

Then last night Mykie of Glam&Gore, a beautiful (not that it matters), talented make-up artist (and winner of NYX Face Awards 2015), felt she had to resort to Twitter to address accusations of making money from creating sponsored videos. Part of her defence was a screenshot of an email conversation where she had been offered $20,000 for sponsorship, something which she rejected as she wasn’t interested in the business platform involved. Just think about the food, and the rent, and the business supplies $20,000 would have paid for.

It’s a fact of life that some YouTubers make a nice living from sponsorship deals but not everyone takes the money, and when they do, some, like Mykie, use it to fund their channel and create content. Mykie’s controversial video allowed her to experiment with special effects that she just wouldn’t have been able to afford if it wasn’t for the sponsorship. Yes, she was advertising a film, but she was also advertising HER business and having fun with it.

I made me really sad to see that someone had to justify themselves to strangers for trying to do something creative. Creating video is extremely costly, not to mention life-consuming, as filming and editing take a long time … and don’t let’s even mention the hours and hours it takes to upload the bloody thing! And yes, I do know what I’m talking about … I have film-making and editing skills, even if I never use them.

Here’s Mykie’s three-minute video showing off her skills for Now You See Me 2. You can see her other videos over on her channel, but be warned, she’s called Glam&Gore for a reason.

So WHY do people feel the need to shame creatives and try to get something for nothing?

Myself and many of my colleagues have been approached by authors wanting edits, who then step away when they find that it costs money. We have all been approached by authors demanding a discount too. Many of us have also been approached to work for peanuts by legitimate publishing houses. Yes, authors may get a nasty shock when they realise that expertise comes at a cost (but it does make your product professional and saleable), but honestly, you’d think the publishing houses would know better.

Then there are the authors who are expected to ‘do the circuit’. Authors who are invited to festivals and high profile events, and are then expected to take time out and pay their own travel and accommodation expenses along with all the other incidentals that come with it. The authors who are the selling point for the event, and yet never see a penny of the takings.

disgust

The festival seemed fun to the author, until she realised it would cost her over £500 to attend.

Here comes the shocker … people obviously think that creatives, whether that be artists, actors, authors or content creators, do it for the love, that it doesn’t take years of training (that someone has to pay for) and that, quite frankly, we live off air.

When I create artwork I accept that some people will want to share the work – what I don’t expect is that people will lift the work and use it in their own business to attract clients (yes, it has happened to me far more than I like to admit, and some of my work is still out there gracing internet business pages).

When I set up as a freelance editor I accepted that it’s a difficult profession flooded with untrained wannabes – what I didn’t expect was a race to the bottom for work.

If editors, proofreaders and indexers accept lower rates so as to not lose business, the very clients they are working for will lose out. They will not get the best out of a grumpy, tired, disillusioned freelance.  They will most likely get ‘good enough’ work to reflect the rate and a rush-job (or most likely a perfunctory spell-check with a few commas added and sentences changed from an untrained ‘editor’ who doesn’t mind working for little to nothing). If freelances offer to work for unacceptably low rates someone somewhere is losing out (and we’ve all worked on manuscripts that are supposed to have been edited but have in reality just been put through a spell-check). For the record, I will not work for the minimum wage no matter who asks, I value my training too much.

If you race to the bottom you'll eventually drown.

If you race to the bottom you’ll eventually drown.

So I’ll end this little rant by listing why creatives should be paid for their work, and perhaps it might reach some of those who feel an entitlement to free entertainment.

  1. Creatives have bills too. We need to eat. Whether creating is a full-time occupation or a part-time one very few people can create just for the love of it.
  2. Creating costs money. Whether it’s an author taking time out to go on retreat to hone their craft, a publishing professional taking courses to get better at their job, or a YouTuber wanting to share their passion with their audience, it all costs money. Normal costs include: training, equipment and production costs, but there is also advertising, travel costs and incidentals. The intended audience don’t usually see all the costs incurred.
  3. Most of the time being a creative really is a full-time occupation. It IS a real job. If you don’t think it is, get over it.
  4. Just because it isn’t a traditional job doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. Video production, music and photography take skill and dedication (and a lot of talent), artists work damn hard on their creations whether that be on paper or digitally, and authors sometimes take years to reach publication. Don’t belittle people’s passion because you see the finish product and think it’s easy.
  5. Finally, entitled people should put themselves in the creative’s shoes. Being creative isn’t easy, it isn’t cheap and we all have to earn a living somehow. If everyone felt the same entitlement we would soon have no entertainment other than that we can create ourselves. We all like a freebie, but not at the expense of others.

Whenever someone tells me that creatives should do it for the love, that it’s not a real job or that they can get the same cheaper somewhere else, I tell them that creatives have bills to pay and that it’s a very real job to keep you entertained. If you can get it cheaper somewhere else, excellent, but remember you eventually get what you pay for.

10 thoughts on “Creative Shaming

  1. I’ve always been amazed that people who would never work for free expect writers and other creative types to do so. Then there are the ones, usually people who are independently wealthy or live off trust funds, that the only worthwhile art comes from people who are dirt poor and that it is selling out if an author makes a little money. And god forbid if an creative type would like enough money to pay the rent, put food on the table, put shoes on the kids, etc…

    • Yup, no-one wants to work for free. We need to educate people that creativity and the arts are relevant, important careers. I think it needs to start in school… too much emphasis is placed on STEM subjects.

  2. Whenever I am asked for a freebie, or people express shock that I actually want to charge for my services, I ask them what they do for a living. If they tell me they’re a hairdresser or a secretary or a shelf packer, I ask them if I can just pop round for a quick hair cut, or can they come to my place and sort out my filing etc. – all for free of course. I don’t do that though if it is someone who is unemployed or an some kind of pension. I just politely say no, this is my job and how I earn a living. However, I am tempted to say – well you probably still earn more than me (which is true because I earn below the UK monthly pension and benefits rate) – but that would be unkind. It’s a bizarre, self-centered mind-set.

    • It’s amazing how those in ’employment’ think that freelances, and creative freelances especially, don’t have a real job and are just ‘playing’. But, then again, there is often a premium attached to ‘bespoke’ items … perhaps it’s all in the wording?

      • I think in many cases it’s because the product of our work (writing, music, art etc) is for most people a hobby. One does not tend to cut hair or fix pipes as a form of cultural enrichment or relaxation. The fact that people try to make money out of something others consider a leisure activity is an odd thing for some folk to get their head around.

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  4. Pingback: Stop The Race To The Bottom, Value Your Writing Services | Northern Editorial

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