We live in a competitive world where there are many more people than sustainable jobs. Most of us need to work to earn an income to survive, and love it or loathe it, money is quite literally the currency of the planet and we need to earn some if we want to be a part of it.
In the realm of the creative arts and creative media technologies there is no shortage of sublime talent and skill. Sadly, many of these incredibly talented folk completely undersell themselves if they even attempt to promote their skills at all. Many of us naively believe that if we have skill, passion and integrity, it is only a matter of time before the world hears about us and utilises our skills. Wrong. A person or organisation cannot hire us if they don’t know we exist! For many of us self-promotion does not come naturally but, deliberate promotion of ourselves is not simply necessary but vital if we want to earn a living off our talent. Let us stop suffering for our art and get sharp! The world does not take talented airheads seriously. The world pays attention when someone skilled takes himself or herself seriously because they have self-respect and an ambitious desire to forge a sustainable career.
‘There are no jobs!’ This statement is absolutely true for those with a victim consciousness and a great motivation to push harder for those who are ambitious. The truly committed do not waste time blaming others and the system because they are busy letting the world know they exist and that they want to make a significant contribution. Genuinely ambitious people actually benefit from the masses complaining because it provides them with less competition while they are creating their networks and careers. Esteemed friends, the bottom line is that too few of us dig deep enough, face our ever-present fears and go and get what we really, really want from our careers. Many of us were raised with the moniker of ‘I want doesn’t get’. What rubbish!! How can we get what we want if a) we don’t know what it is, or b) we don’t tell the whole world about it when we do?
Many of us are terrified of negotiation and consequently accept lower fees or less than what we believe we are genuinely worth. Everything is negotiable so exercise your right to negotiate. Of course it does not mean you will always get the fee or price you have requested, but at least you have the solace in knowing you tried. Negotiation is not arrogant; it is a perfectly legitimate way of paying less for a quality service or product, and of course if you want to earn more, then negotiate up! Conversely, if someone is attempting to negotiate a lower rate for your time and expertise, there are two words you need to use, yes or no.
Many of us believe that if we have recently graduated or have no significant commercial experience yet, that we have to start our career working for free. This belief suits prospective employers because they get to have your time and skill for no initial cost to them. Offering your services for free in the name of getting your foot in is in fact not astute. Remember, the lower that your income starts, the longer it takes to start earning a higher wage. There is also an extremely feint line between an internship (due-paying employment period) and being a slave. Good ole’ fashioned hard work is a given, but slavery doesn’t have a good reputation.
Another reality to consider is that it is not unique for you to offer your services (initially) for free because recent graduates and newcomers to the industry do this every day. Show evidence of your self-respect and entrepreneurial spirit by thoroughly researching what people are paying and where you fit into that. Ironically, astute employers will in fact question how valuable you actually are if you offer your time and knowledge for free. In the context of employment, it is generally evident within a few moments of interaction that the prospective client or employer will determine if we have the all elusive something special or if we are simply seeking employment to earn an income to survive.
Dear friends, creativity and talent alone are simply not sufficient enough to earn a decent living from our productions. We need to be business-like and take our time and contribution seriously. The world is overstocked with creative folk who are clueless about business. The result is they are broke, bitter and bored. This of course is the antithesis of an attractive employment prospect.
Professionals invoice promptly, pay for services they have received without delay and pick up the phone to deal with an individual or company in-person who owe them money. Never, ever, feel self-conscious to follow up on money you are owed for quality work you have delivered on time. You have kept your side of the agreement, and if a client is in arrears with payment to you, you have absolutely nothing to fear. Make the call and get your money. Never deal with these matters via email, SMS or a 3rd party. Feel the fear and do it anyway as the author Susan Jeffers encourages.
Many of us shy away from handling our business affairs astutely because we believe that these skills kill our creativity and are only bestowed on special people. Let us wake up and take ownership of our lives, our income, and our careers, and stop waiting for others to rescue us. Asking for what we want, negotiating a price or rate and being the architect of the quality of our own lives is mostly common sense and not rocket science. The world is full of flakes waiting for others to save them. Let us not attempt to live off the money earned by others and let’s earn our own. We can achieve this by asking for what we want, ensuring we are completely informed of the parameters and legalities pertaining to our chosen field, always negotiate, and contribute to the quality of superior productions and to our personal and National economies while we are about it.
Earning a decent income doing what we love is completely possible. Ambitious people across the globe are doing it as you read this.
Have fun, know what you want, and go and get it without compromising your own integrity or the dignity of others.
David Maclean is a mastering engineer, educator and business executive with two decades of experience in the music industry and tertiary education sector. David is the Director of SAE Institute South Africa and is based at their campus in Cape Town. The SAE Group has 54 campuses across the globe. David understands the attitudes and opinions of the industry professionals within the creative media industries and the educators and authorities within Higher Education in South Africa and abroad based on his unusual portfolio of skills in business, education and creative media technologies.