When I told my family I wanted to be an artist, they said, “You are going to starve. Be a lawyer, a doctor, get a real job and then practice art as a hobby.”
I didn’t listen to that advice. I pursued my passion for graphic design.
Since 2015, I have managed my graphic design and screen-printing businesses, but it hasn’t been peaches and cream. I had to pay my dues as a neophyte in the trade. I’ve had to prove to myself that I could make a living doing what I love and become a successful entrepreneur.
Working for Exposure
There is no success without mistakes. And, boy, have I made them.
First, I worked for “exposure.” I didn’t know anything about basic business principles. I didn’t know the actual value of what I was bringing to the table.
Initially, I had no desire to deal with things like accounting, marketing or legal advice and learning when to say “no” to clients. (Ufff! That was the hardest!)
Have you ever heard of someone who goes to a lawyer and says, “Solve this case for me. If you do an outstanding job, I can refer you to my network. Consider that as a form of payment — an opportunity for exposure.” Hmmm … I don’t think so.
Working for free just to get recognition is a mistake. You are building the idea in the public’s mind that what creatives do has no value or meaning. You allow people to abuse other artists, and as a result, the overall industry pricing declines.
Knowing Your Value
Gaining respect for our work starts with us. It’s all about culture and the education about art in our mind has to change.
Creatives in Charlotte: Please know that our craft has a tremendous value; it takes effort and talent to make it, and it provides a benefit to the consumer. If you don’t appreciate your craft, no one else will.
If you are just beginning to showcase your talents and decide to work for free, look for enriching opportunities for both sides. Get something in return for your precious ideas.
Internships are an excellent illustration. They’re not paid most of the time, but you get real work experience and build relationships and a portfolio.
Volunteering and collaborating are also great learning resources and examples of non-monetary rewards you could get for your trade.
How Much to Charge for Your Work
A good starting point is finding what the industry standard is in the area. Before coming up with a price, think about all aspects of producing that creative work from beginning to end. Consider the resources it takes you to create such work:
- Software or equipment required
- Materials needed and the cost of those
- How experienced you are in the trade
- What unique skills you provide that other creatives in your field may not have
Learn How to Say “No”
This was one of the hardest lessons to learn. Sometimes, I was too shy to say no to clients’ requests. I over-committed. I could not fulfill my promises. And, I was stealing time from the things that I could really benefit from.
Along the way, I’ve learned that not every client was suited for me. Not every opportunity is a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, in the pursuit of money, we can become “jacks of all trades,” but that can be detrimental to our reputation and to the overall profession. We can lose focus.
Learning to say “no” is part of the respect and appreciation that we have for our craft. It shows respect and consideration for your clients’ time, money and ideas. Being honest and knowing your limits is essential.
Don’t over-commit. If you don’t have time to deliver what you promise, it will impact you negatively. Don’t improvise if you think that you are not capable of what you are asked to do. Value relationships. Learn to say “no” politely and you won’t lose that relationship.
For me, reputation is the most important asset I have as a person and creative, so I try to protect it.
This is the first half of a two-part editorial from Caro Diaz. It’s part of The Biscuit’s “Business of Creativity” series. The second part will be published next Wednesday.
More About Caro Diaz
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