The Dirty Word in the Creative World

You spend several years and thousands upon thousands of pounds on gaining a recognisable qualification from a reputable college or university. You build a strong portfolio, create a stylish and unique CV, you get your cap and gown then climb up on the stage to have your picture taken with someone you've never heard of until that afternoon, your family congratulates you and treat you to a meal and drinks. You go home proud of your achievements and thoroughly look forward to the great career that is lay ahead of you after all of your late nights and early mornings learning your craft.

Six months later, you arrive at work in the local call centre, the only design work you have been commissioned for was unpaid favours for family and friends who could more than afford to pay, but they don't value your craft. 

My question to you, is why?

It seems a daily occurrence that I come across job posts for very low paid design work, sadly, these posts have an overwhelming amount of applicants, desperate to earn some kind of a living out of what they love to do. 

As a creative, filmmaker, designer, musician or photographer you are likely to be excited about being approached due your talent and skills. We naturally throw ourselves into doing what we love and finding a solution for the business or individual that has invested so much faith in us, so much so, that we often forget about the money until it's too late. You can't agree a fee at all, or it falls way below what is needed to cover the project. If you do have an agreement in place it is usually a low fee paid upon completion, but how often does this not happen? 

We have become valued as less than, by those who cannot create like us. Yet, we are allowing them to set our rates and decide if they should even bother paying us or returning our calls.

Something that was missing from two of the three creative courses that I completed after high school, was how to make a living from your work. How do you draw up a contract or a business plan or an invoice? Virtually non of this was covered.

Time and time again you and your class mates would be discussing artists who had done good, make a killing, were living the dream, and 9 times out of 10 us artist and fellow creatives would refer to them as "Sell outs". And this my friends is the number one reason that many creatives become jaded and give up. We want to stay so true to our craft and our beliefs about why we got into this course of study, that we avoid taking advantage of it in the only way possible for us to continue down that path. Here is comes....


There we go, I said it. Designers need to think about money more often. Don't let it consume us, or drive us, but we need to keep it mind all the way through each brief. If you're not billing clients regularly, you're not going to sustain any business. 

It is our duty, at every level, student, graduate or seasoned professional, talk money before starting any project. Take 50% upfront, 25% at an agreed milestone, then 25% upon delivery of finished assets. This way you will cover your running costs and you and your team get paid. If the final 25% does get paid, then you have even managed to make a profit, considering you have priced the project correctly. 

Don't be ashamed to discuss money with fellow creatives or clients, we all need it to survive.