Creatives are clearly in a battle for the value of their work and what clients are willing to pay for it. But who should be the winner?
There has been a lot of debate recently among creatives that I follow on social media around “exposure culture” and what our work is worth as artists, designers, writers and creators. We’ve all heard the click-bait horror stories of photographers and artists who refused to do a job for an extreme discount or “for exposure” only to be vilified by their “client” on social media. Recently, Elon Musk retweeted an illustration of a video game character and when he refused to give credit to the artist, it opened a huge discussion on Twitter about how and why it is important to request and give credit, and what to do when you find your work used without permission.
The interesting thing is that this problem is not limited to self-employed artists and creators. It is a problem that spans across the entire creative industry, as even the largest firms find themselves in a constant war over pricing and what their time, experience and expertise is worth.
“If you want Michelangelo, you pay for it,” said Kim Wijkstrom, a former agency executive who most recently served as CMO of OneMain Financial. “The Pope wanted the best creative director at the time, and he didn’t get it for free.”
The quote above came to me recently in an email from Advertising Age, referring to an article discussing the current relationships between major marketing agencies and their big brand clients. It was interesting to see that the same struggles facing self-employed creatives are also plaguing big design houses, and reinforces the fact that at the heart of the issue is a simple question: What is your creativity worth?
Of course, even that simple question has facets. Your customers will decide on their own merits and ideas what your value is to them, but the more important question is what value you place on your own skills and time? It’s critical as creators, whether you’re employed in a design or creative position within a larger company or self-employed, that you know the value of your own work, and stand by it.