Why Does Everyone Think Creatives Have It Easy?

by . December 19th, 2015

The first step to getting respect as creatives is understanding why we don’t have it in the first place.

Have you ever heard these before?

“How can you fail art class? Art is easy!”

“Oh so you’re a writer? Lucky you! All you have to do is sit around all day!”

I made an abstract painting today. Just threw a bunch of leftover paint on some old sheets I had lying around. lol.”

“You want more than $5 for a stupid branding strategy?”

“You’ll get plenty of exposure!”

“One last edit! This time for realsies!”

Could you lower your rates to match this guy’s?”

“Make it POP!”

“Ok. One more edit. I swear. Just one more.”

“My daughter does Photoshop too! She’s four.”

“I’m sure you can do this. You’re great with computers!”

“I know you were asleep, time zones and all. But can you look over this [INSERT POINTLESS DETAIL]”

“I don’t need a photographer. I have an iPhone.”

“What do you mean, I have to pay for those edits?”

Now that we’ve sufficiently enraged you, let’s really ask ourselves one thing:

Why can’t creative workers get any respect?

Of course, plenty of people respect creatives, and nearly all jobs have creative aspects to them. For the purposes of discussion, let’s keep it at jobs most would consider to be “creative”, as most understand it.

While the output of creatives is usually the reason anything new actually gets made, it seems we’re the Rodney Dangerfields of commerce and industry. But it’s not without reason.

Here are a few reasons ‘creative work’ doesn’t get much respect.

5.) The bar to entry is incredibly low.

It seems that these days, everyone and their dog’s an artist, photographer, musician, graphic designer, or a writer, or *gasp* a foodie.

They may very well be telling the truth because it’s impossible to prove otherwise.

In fields where certification is often unnecessary, or even scoffed at, it’s easy to claim to be a practitioner— and rightly so.

Prior to the creation of guilds, and later, modern educational systems, the same (perceived) problem was seen in virtually every technical field. Almost anyone can start cutting up people and call themselves surgeons, and anyone who knew the basics of any skilled trade would be able to practice it.

Modern technology has subsequently democratized so much knowledge that used to be accessible only by putting in the time, or by belonging to some exclusive club.

Creative fields such design, art, and photography are the most obviously simple ones to enter because all the material you need to get started is readily available, and no one can call you out for calling yourself a designer or an artist, simply because there are no authorities that govern who can be called what, exactly.

But the fact of the matter is, all the material you could possibly need to become a surgeon, lawyer, or a fighter pilot is likewise available anywhere.

The main issues are that either the material costs are too expensive, or certain legal protections have been built around those professions. Whether or not this means we must review the system so it keeps up with the times is a topic for another time.

Naturally, since anyone can call themselves a “creative”, then everyone is.

Solution: Stand out by being better than your peers. Keep learning and improving. Believe us, there is no other way. Also, know your real value and make sure people who matter do too.

4.) We don’t innovate enough.

Alright. Everyone’s a creative now. And it’s gotten on your nerves.

What are you going to do about it?

11 Things That Don’t Mean Good Design

Chances are, not a damned thing. You’ll probably mindlessly lock yourself into things that are widely accepted to be “best practice” without understand they’re considered that.

Solution: If you do things like everyone else, you better at least have your own angle.

3.) When we do innovate, it’s often hard to understand the difference.

Most laymen only see creative works as cool or interesting in a vague way, because let’s face it, it’s not necessary to learn them to get ahead.

Where a trained musician may appreciate how difficult it must have been for Mozart or Miles Davis to create their music, most casual listeners would likely only hear their works as pretty tunes, if that.

Some artists are stoked about the fact the Mona Lisa is painted on poplar, and not on canvas. Some programmers feel awe at RollerCoaster Tycoon having totally been created in x86 assembly language, basically the programming equivalent of building a house by growing and harvesting your own trees for lumber and mining, smelting, and drawing your own iron for the nails.

Few people who are not painters or programmers will care about those things, and only see a pretty picture or a clunky 90’s video game.

Solution: Communicate and empathize with those who need your work but don’t understand it.

2.) We are unable to defend our creative decisions.

Even when we do come up with something innovative, it’s hard to explain why  it makes sense. It happens in a lot of non-creative fields as well. But when it happens in one where the bar to entry is low, not being able to give a solid rationale for why certain things are done gives a sense of arbitrariness and the wrong idea that “anyone can do it”.

A lot of the time, issues like this stem from the inability to understand non-creatives — the people who often need what a creative worker brings to the table.

When creative workers are not able to effectively communicate their decisions to the people who will be affected by them, it’s easy to see why their work won’t be as valued.

Solution: A creative worker has to draw from outside the technical specifics of their field, usually in areas like process management, marketing, psychology, and whatever else might be relevant to their project.

Creative workers need to be able to communicate with those in non-creative fields, in ways they understand.

1.) “Right” and “wrong” don’t make sense in most creative contexts.

Creative problems rarely have a single solution. In most cases, there will often be an infinite range of workable answers. Contrast this to most other occupations not usually considered “creative”. While nearly all of them will encounter situations where there are no clear-cut answers, in creative fields this is the rule, and not the exception.

Solution: If you are working with people or within a culture that doesn’t really understand this, it may help to demonstrate concepts in person or to provide data.

Don’t hold your breath, though.

F*ck You, Pay Me – Why Creative Workers and Freelancers Need Contracts



Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.