How to Get Taken Advantage of As a Creative Person

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I did what she asked — delaying dinner with my wife to make a “more pink” design. The queen of pink was my most demanding client at the time. She was also paying me $0, which made taking her feedback a little tough. All the paid work which was supposed to happen after my free work mysteriously disappeared. She stopped answering my emails after the final assets were delivered.

I didn’t miss her.

It is the nature of creative work, I think, which tempts people to believe the work itself is easy. From an outsider’s perspective, the artist sits down, thinks a while, and then magically appears with an idea.

After having worked in graphic design, freelance writing, ghost writing, and video marketing, I can’t help but notice the same ignorant conversation happening over and over:

These conversations sound insane. But I say yes to them all the time.

Do you know why this happens to me? Because I allow it happen.

I didn’t call the above conversation “stupid.” I called it “ignorant.” Non-creative people typically have no idea the cost and nuance of creative work. Rather than appear a mean and nasty fella, I smile and bow and do what I’m asked. (Which is a big reason I simply don’t talk to that many people).

Originally, I tried to title this post “How to *Not* be Taken Advantage of!” or “10 Sentences to Guarantee you Get Paid for your Creative Work.” Then I realized the immense hypocrisy of writing a post like that when I am about to jump on a writing call on Sunday for free. It is more fun to be honest than it is to get claps.

Probably I won’t stop. Probably I will keep doing things for free. Probably some of those things will pay off, while some of them won’t.

But here’s a promise I made to myself when I hire:

  • I will ask creative people what they charge up front.
  • I will pay for creative assets rather than steal them (e.g. the rose up top).
  • I will pay creative freelancers what we agree.
  • I will pay them on time.

Maybe eventually I will get better at charging myself.

Much love ❤

— Todd B

Written by

An optimist who writes.

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