The True Value of your Creative Work: Part One

The Value of Creativity is Being Constantly Undermined

A huge amount of research has gone into writing this series of blogs on helping you realise the true value of your time as a creative professional.

There are two major problems in the creative industry that have spurred this series:

  1. The tremendous devaluing of creative services that has been snowballing over the last century
  2. The general lack of confidence most creative professionals seem to have when putting a price on their time, often feeling the need to offer discounts or low day rates to compete.

These are interlinked like two sides of one coin; I will explore them briefly before going into some of my insights into how to tackle them.

My background is in project management in advertising and a huge part of my purpose was listening to and supporting creatives as they strove to put true value on their efforts both internally to other departments and also to clients. I worked alongside creative directors to spell out why projects take the time they do and cost the price they cost as well as tackling some of the fundamental questions being constantly fired out by clients as to why there needed to be a creative process at all. Even if you work with very switched on, innovative or understanding clients, team members or third parties you’ll rarely be able to go from beginning to end in a project without encountering some resistance to the worth of the creative service you are offering.

“Surely we don’t need a second phase of development after the first – won’t we have ironed out all the issues by that point?”

“We’re working to quite tight budgets here, are there any phases that can be reduced? How about the concept phase?”

Devaluing creative services is so ingrained in our culture, we’ve been collectively stoking the fire since YouTube started in 2005, Amazon started selling cut price books in 1995 and free pitching became the norm in the ad world of the 1960s. You could argue that giving away cheap or free creatively produced services and products like this has led to an expectation that this will come from all areas of the creative industry, it’s a self-perpetuating problem. Its possible the tide may eventually turn as tech advancement cannot replicate the unique value of human conceptual thinking and relationship building we may start to value these attribute more highly. However, that change may come too late for those trying to make ends meet in the creative industry today.

Trying to turn the tide

If we are going to ring in the changes here and now we need to start with ourselves: Seeing ourselves as the unique, irreplaceable innovators and creators who will stand the test of time, rather than small cogs in a big machine whose value is only found in their ability to consistently and unceasingly produce work in a well-oiled manner.

“Our people have always been our greatest asset. Yet some in our industry have placed far too much emphasis on efficiency, tools and process, and forgotten that all great businesses thrive on imagination, lateral thinking and white-space hunters.” Troy Ruhanen, writing in ADWEEK

This is a battle that large agencies need to fight but it is also the battleground of small businesses and sole traders; you too need to be ambassadors of creative value. It takes a lot of effort to turn the tide of culture but as you do it you’ll start to spot the people who have actually been yearning for partners and services that are speaking their language and putting value on the things that really matter to them. So how does one go about being an ambassador of true creative value when we are so regularly being pulled in the opposite direction by our competitors?

In this series we’ll be focusing on how you, as a creative professional, value your own time and work and then move on to thinking about how you can sell that value to others. Here’s how that is going to look:

  1. The True Value of Creativity is Being Undermined (see above!)
  2. Measure your time in order to understand it, not as a way of tightening the straight-jacket!
  3. Believe in your worth – re-educating yourself of the value of your creativity
  4. Explaining your value to others – rethinking networking and pitching

Come back next week for Part 2 so you can learn how to start measuring your time in order to understand the value of your creativity!

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