“They [creative professionals] don’t set up a business for the money – they are genuinely interested in something and view their work as a lifestyle choice.”
- Alison Branagan
This quote is from a recent Guardian article, ‘Young creative entrepreneurs: five building blocks for start-up success’. The article has some useful advice but this quote does give the wrong impression about creative professionals, such as designers, especially if taken out of context.
It suggests that creative professionals, unlike other people, care only about being creative and enjoying the work. The danger is that clients reading this won’t value the work done by designers and other creative professionals, if they think that the love of being creative is reward enough for the work.
I had one such client recently: the scope of work promised three initial logo ideas, and after receiving the three ideas the client expressed disappointment that when I was “in the creative zone” I didn’t get “carried away” and provide an extra six designs. Of course, since the client cited this as one of the reasons for not wanting to pay for the work at all, it’s an extreme example of a client undervaluing the work of creative professionals.
Obviously you would expect, or at least hope, that someone running a design business would enjoy the work they do, but you would also expect that of a lot of professions. Hopefully someone choosing to become a vet would like animals, or a mechanic would be interested in how cars work.
Does someone taking enjoyment from their work mean they deserve to be paid less (or not at all)? It’s likely that someone enjoying their work will produce work of a higher standard than if they had no interest in it.
Would the client who expected me to triple my workload similarly expect the mechanic giving their car a service to enjoy their work so much that they get carried away and provide an MOT and fit a brand new set of tyres and full tank of petrol completely free? If you wouldn’t expect that kind of service from one profession, why expect it from another.
Design is a fun job (one that I do very much enjoy), but it is a job like any other. Like everyone else, creative professionals have bills to pay, and like any other, creative businesses need to make a profit to remain in business.
So there needs to be a balance: enjoying the work and being paid for it are both important in order to run a successful design business.
*Yes, I’ve borrowed the title from Mike Monteiro’s book; I couldn’t resist as it so perfectly summed up what I wanted to say. I haven’t read the book yet but after hearing so many good things about it, my copy is ordered and I’m excitedly waiting for it to arrive!