The Creative: A User’s Guide

So, given what’s been going on in the news lately, you could be forgiven for not reading this handy-dandy users guide to creative-types that popped up a few days ago. It’s an interesting read, if only for the impressive shade of excrement it provides.

It should be noted that the author is (a) probably attempting to sell a service to corporate-types, and (b) likely generalizing as a means to accomplishing (a). Nonetheless, said generalizing is annoying, especially if you happen to be one of those kooky creative types that he’s generalizing.

As such, there is one key point that I, being one of the aforementioned creative types, would like to address in a civil, if pragmatic manner. 

“Pay Them Poorly”

This is a prevalent meme. A reoccurring concept that rises up whenever someone–be it an editor, a corporate client, DC comics, pirate downloaders or Amanda Palmer–wants as much as they can get for as little as they can get away with paying. The creative as Santa Claus, providing gifts to all and sundry. Art for art’s sake, the book that must be written, information wants to be free, payment in exposure, all that jazz.

In and of itself, wanting something for nothing is not a crime. But you get what you pay for.

Paying me poorly does not increase my creativity. Quite the opposite, in fact. When I approach a job, be it a tie-in novel, a short story submission, or a travel brochure, my first consideration is how doing said job will benefit me. Is the money good? If not, what else do I get out of it? If the answer is, respectively, ‘no’ and ‘nothing’, I don’t do the job. I find another one. One of the perks of being a freelance writer is that I’m free to do just that.

One of the downsides is, of course, that I invariably have to do that a lot. Because brother, there are a lot of folks out there wanting my best work and first international rights for a hearty handshake and the promise of twenty five copies sold worth of exposure.

That said, ‘payment’ can come in a plethora of forms. Money is the best, in my view, but there are other valid forms, depending on your needs. Is it a project/editor/cause you want to be attached to? Are there potential professional connections to be made? Will a freebie here lead to money later? Is it a form of guerilla marketing that will benefit you?

Basically, the payment should always be equal to the job, in your view. You, as the writer/artist/musician/whatever, should always endeavour to be paid in full, to your satisfaction. If that’s five cents a word, great. If it’s in page views or advertising revenue, or the promise of at least twenty-five new readers, more power to you. But always–ALWAYS–get paid, and paid well, for your effort. 

Don’t let someone ‘pay you poorly’ because ‘it’s supposed to stimulate creativity’ or because ‘you should be doing what you love for the love’. Don’t let others dictate your worth. That’s your job. It may take you time, trial and a whole lot of error to determine said worth, but you’ll figure it out eventually.

That’s the theory, at any rate.

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3 comments

  1. I was linked here from Jonathan Green’s blog, and… wow, that Seven Rules to Managing Creative-but-Difficult People article is appalling.

    I followed up to read his other article, “Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research” The sentiment that overpaying decreases motivation comes across as hard to argue with because he cites so many studies, but there’s a logical fallacy, not necessarily in the initial studies, but in his own analysis of the results.

    If you read closely, what the studies seem to support is that an individual who is focused on external rewards will be less engaged than an individual who is focused on internal rewards. This is a well-known and widely accepted believe. What I question is whether an increase in external rewards will necessarily shift the individual’s focus away from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation. According to his own studies, there is very low correlation between salary and satisfaction. So why is it again that raising salary is suddenly supposed to /decrease/ satisfaction? I don’t buy it.

    If a person is passionate enough to do something when they’re not being paid well, they’re damn sure not going to give up on it just because it does start paying well.

    There’s a final step I was taught in math class in the 6th grade: the common-sense test. After you’ve run all the equations carried all the numbers, calculated the remainder and come up with a result, take a step back, look at the answer and ask, “does this make sense?”

    If the answer is no, you’ve made an error somewhere. I think Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic must not have taken the same math class I did.

    1. Well, bear in mind this is a consultancy plan he’s trying to sell–his math doesn’t need to add up, so much as it needs to equal ‘yes, you can TOTALLY get away with paying content creators less, dude.’

      I don’t think he actually believes it, so much as he’s exploiting a shoddy social meme. If that’s the case, he doesn’t actually have to make sense. He’s telling the people who will pay him what they want to hear.

      Which is funny, because essentially he’s creating a whole pseudo-statistical ‘thing’ from whole cloth and then attempting to persuade corporate America to pay top price for it–which is *exactly* what he’s telling them *not* to do. That takes some stones.

      But yes, you’re correct, I think. His math makes no sense, because it’s fake math.

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