As a Creative, I have been in many situations that require "white knuckling" a negotiation. Everyone wants to pay as little as they can for just about everything, I mean, why wouldn't you? So, we can't fault a business woman or man for trying to get the most for the buck. Artists do the same thing, some of us do anyway. It's a natural process of living as a human.
What I do know is that after a hard-fought concession that meets the minimum requirements for me to take a job, I feel dejected, used, grimy and totally drained. The exact opposite of where I need to be if I am to give the client what they paid for, or more. At home after negotiating this kind of contract, I always feel like I shouldn't have taken the job because I am mad as hell. There usually isn't any reason for me to be mad, but I typically am. Mostly because I feel that if the business really liked my work, why did they have to say that it costs too much? It's a pretty dumb way to look at it, but it's just another one of the emotions tearing at me on the inside. To look at it from the outside, I actually won. I got the contract, and I am going to get paid for my artistic work. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of soul searching for me to get over that hump and into the right mindset to deliver the best I can, if at all. I am sure most artists feel the same way about it too. It's also one of many reasons why artists tend to fall deep into despair and overflow with self-doubt right before they quit for good and become a hermit. Even though they should revel in the fact that someone actually wants to pay them for their art.
Speaking to artists and freelancers out there, I have a couple of useful tips that will help. To the business folk, I have some great tips on how to talk and work with someone who is genuinely creative.
To the artists: You have to defend your business. That's what the guy or gal across the table or on the other end of the phone are doing. It's nothing personal, they actually value your work as well as you.
Wait, what? I know, right…
Sometimes that seems so far out there you can't even begin to believe it. But it is true, Trust me on this one. I used to be that business owner. Whenever I hired an artist to help me with something I didn't do it because they were cheap to hire, it was because I thought they did excellent work. But that didn't mean I was a wealthy billionaire who wanted to bankroll the dream project.
They have a budget too. You have to look at this side of the project as the business only side, compartmentalize it. I know, that's terrible, but really that's the best way to look at it. That doesn't mean you have to be the one giving up everything. Don't hedge your bet. Hold to your standards and don't back off.
You, the creative, have bills to pay and budgets to meet, even if they are only scribbled on the McDonald's bag in your car. Guess what, so does the person in front of you. You may think spending $10 on Whataburger is splurging while they could feed the entire room and not miss it but a budget is a budget and money is money, that's about all there is to that. Don't take it personally.
Treat this part of the deal like you work for Walmart and give em hell. After all, they are going to do the same thing, at least before they read the rest of this blog. Hopefully, these next things will help the creative in business but not "content" understand that we are not tools, we are artists.
For the business minded folk who are confounded by the Creatives out there, I am glad you are still here, reading this blog. Don't be frightened that the price for every Facebook video or graphic just jumped 20% after all the artists read that. It won't, I promise.
Creative folks are kinda different than you are used to dealing with. Some are more "easier" to get along with than others, but that doesn't mean they are singing your praises either. Just like your employees, Creatives can suffer morale issues and, just like your employees, creatives work better when they feel respected.
If you have pushed your contract to the limits and negotiated the best deal you can get, you have probably pushed the Creative folks (especially if it's only one person and not a team) up against a wall. It is true that some people respond well to being cornered and do their best work under pressure, but I am here to say those folks are far and few between. What you have really done is poked a giant hole in the creativity bucket, draining away what you thought you were paying for. If it was stressful for you, these negotiations, then it was, at the very least, just as stressful for the Creative and that's not a good thing.
I would suppose that you, the businessman or woman, have an expectation that you must get what you ordered. You are right, you should. That's not always the case though. Creatives aren't order takers or line workers. These folks don't do well when working on the factory floor, they are artists after all.
The work they do cannot be dictated to them. When you do that you actually devalue them and their work. It makes it worth LESS than what you thought you were paying for.
Videos, graphics, designs and anything else that you want to be better than the bullet point slideshow you have open on your desktop right now cannot be done by dictating to the creative every pixel or brush stroke. You want it to be better than what you are making, right? Then why are you making them do it exactly the way you would do it? This happens more than you know and that shouldn't be why you hired them. Creatives can only shine when all the barriers are lifted, and they are free to express themselves. Sure, give them deadlines and parameters but let them surprise you. After all, they are the artist and not you, right?
For the Creatives and the Business folk alike I can say with 100% surety that the consumers of "content" can tell when something is good and when something is bad. Or worse, contrived from the salesy stereotypical double talk that hasn't changed in sixty years. They can tell (and so can you) when something has no "heart" and zero creativity, so let the Creative do their thing. Speaking now as a Creative, we abhor salsey and, if let off the chain, we will kill everything that even remotely smells like it was in the same room as it.
Being creative sells products plain and simple. You hired the Creative to fill the gap those bullet points can't fill. And you, the Creative, you took the job so you can work on your masterpieces without having to work at that nine to five soul-killing job. As a man who once was a business minded sales guy who's turned to the dark side and shed his skin to become a Creative, I say release the shackles and pay that Creative to be creative, and you will get more value out of them than you ever thought possible. I guarantee it.