$$$ Advice for Creatives

Ooh, “creatives!” That’s us, right, even those of us who slave away on broadcast TV?

The following has turned out to be exactly what this TVWriter™ minion needed to know to help my career and my bank account too:


by Matt McCue

The most important thing someone working in a creative business needs to remember is that it’s still a business. Just because it’s characterized as “creative” doesn’t mean that it should be fundamentally organized or run any differently than those in “serious” fields like financial services and accounting.

And yet, all too often creatives, whether they’re freelancers or managing their own design firms, approach the business aspect of their profession with a sense of trepidation, nonchalance, or both. It could stem from the fact that since creatives make what they produce, they feel it’s a direct reflection of them personally and are more insecure about asking for the full value of the product. In other cases, creatives eyes glaze over when contemplating things like contracts, invoices, and project fees (because none of these are nearly as exciting as taking photos in the African bush or designing a brand’s identity from scratch.)

But creatives need to remember that they are business people whose particular craft is illustration, graphic design, or whatever other art form it may be. Since we make a living from selling – not producing – our work, there is no separating art from commerce. In that spirit, we’ve rounded up 99U’s best money advice for creatives from our past interviews and insights.

Never work for free

There are some people who say that the best way to break into the creative industry is by initially working for free to gain experience. However, others vehemently oppose that idea because they believe it harms a creative’s ability to make a fair income down the road.

Texas sign painter Norma Jeanne Maloney weighs in on the debate: “I really have a huge amount of disdain for people who say that an artist can hang their work in a coffee shop, or whatever the business is, in exchange for “exposure,” says Maloney. “That is the biggest cop out for not paying people what they’re worth. In retrospect, when I look back on my career, I wish I would have drawn a harder line in the sand. I won’t work for free now, and I do not encourage anyone I know to do that. Giving your art away for free is a serious trap, because people will say, “You did it for them for free, why aren’t you doing that for me?” If you bank yourself as someone who works for less than nothing, you will never be able to charge what you’re worth.”