I’ve just discovered this great article over at Painter Creativity called “Top 10 Lies told to Naive Artists and Designers.” It basically sums up on one page the first half of the “welcome to the business” speech I give to new freelance filmmakers.
(The other half of my speech has to do with basic financial advice regarding emergency funds, health insurance and retirement accounts. Of course, everyone wants to talk about how to find clients — and I talk about that too — but I’ve found that finding new clients seems to be a lot easier than figuring out ways to survive on what they pay you. Most of the filmmakers I talk to live paycheck to paycheck and I know a number of fellow editors in their 50s who haven’t saved a penny for their retirement. There’s a big difference between working because you want to and working because you have to and I believe that if you are choosing to work in a highly competitive and poorly compensated creative field, you should do everything possible to keep your work in the “want to” category. That includes being good enough to be chosen for the plum projects, being a savvy businessperson and becoming skilled at managing your money.)
But back to the lies… Even though my freelance experience is mainly in the film biz, I’ve found that these “Top Ten Lies” seem to be told to everyone in the creative fields at one time or another — whether they are filmmakers, graphic artists or musicians. And while it’s unreasonable for beginners to expect to get paid the same as more experienced artists, all of these “lies” take advantage of that niggling fear that all beginning artists are prey to, that fear being “I don’t deserve to get paid for my work.”
These “employers” turn the new artist’s enthusiasm, humility and faith in “training opportunities” — all good traits no matter how much experience you have, mind you — to their own advantage. And it is not only the new artist who is vulnerable to such offers — I see friends of mine, fellow freelancers with well over a decade each of paid work under their belts, tempted by such work-just-this-once-for-free “opportunities”, especially if they are looking to expand their skill set.
In my experience, such jobs are almost always dead-ends that sap your time away from serious clients — you know, the ones looking to compensate you for the time you put in a project — and those are the clients who deserve your full attention. If you want to work with a friend for free because it’s fun, I say, have at it. But if a “client” approaches you for work with one of these lies, trust me when I tell you that you deserve better.
If you are interested in making a living as a freelancer in a creative profession, you should read this article — it will save you a lot of heartache.
(And once you’ve started work, please give me a shout out and let me know how you are getting on! 🙂 )
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