My Time and Your Money

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Creatives, visionaries, inventors and “dreamers”, all share one limitation, the desire to create.

Yup! You read that right the desire to create is a limitation.

Limiting how? You ask.

Usually financially! 

Most people who have found their “muse” (that word sounds so bougie or hipster. But it serves its purpose here) spend most of their time creating in their field of passion.

Which is exactly as it should be.

Except those people still have to have a life.  They need to have a place to live, food to eat, materials to express their passion and relationships with other people. All those things take money. And that need for money sets up the limitation.

One of the most difficult things about being creative is getting paid fairly for your creativity and getting credit for those talents.

The problem is usually with the “gatekeepers”, the record label exes, the TV and movie show runners, Broadway producers, promotors, etc. They know most creatives NEED to create. It’s like breathing to us. So, if you’re on the “selling entertainment” side of the business and know how much creatives want to create, why not offer them less money. The hook we all bite on is the opportunity to showcase our work and continue doing what we love.

Most of the time a market exists with masses who are willing to pay for the creators’ talents and final product. The issue is when a creator tries to connect directly with that market. If your time is spent creating then how can you spend time learning and developing how to access the mass market?

The simple answer is you can’t.

If you’re a carpenter and building houses is your passion and then you had to sell those houses, you’d need to stop building and learn to sell.  But building is your gift.  It’s what your good at and love to do. If you stop building and try selling, something you’re not gifted at, you lose on both ends. You will be competing against people who are gifted at selling houses and you will quickly run out of house inventory to sell and make money to continue building.

Well… how about cutting a deal with those people who are skilled at selling? You build them and they sell them. Everybody wins. Right? Only when you find the rare seller who doesn’t get greedy.

Most people in the business of selling creatives works are just that… In the “business”.

Their muse is making money and they usually recognize your passion to create far out ways your desire to make money.

I’m not saying they are evil and only out to exploit the creative.  I’m saying you need to learn to be aware that your talents and skills are viewed as products on a shelf to be sold. And the basics of business is buying cheap and selling high.  

Throughout the years of selling my talents and skills I have either unknowingly sold them too cheap or just as often lost out completely while holding out for a better deal.

There is a fair way to portion out the revenue of the sale. But you need to know the reality of your “perceived” worth to the market. Don’t let your passion to create get in the way of making a living.

You may be awesome at creating something but it may be something nobody wants at the time. You may have created something of value but have no idea how to sell it.

In either case you will need someone who’s primary skill is selling and identifying a market. If they are fair and you are reasonable, you will both be able to make a good living and you will be able to follow your passion.

Fair many times means you won’t get credit for your creative contribution or maybe you’ll get credit but have to take less money. Sounds unfair until you remember without the person selling your skills and talents your share might me zero.

We all know who Thomas Edison is and what “he” invented. But not many know the names of the dozens of inventors that worked for him 7 days a week in Menlo Park, NJ inventing things under the banner of Edison.

How about Walt Disney and the thousands of animators, artists, writers and composers that developed those decades of shows? Can you name 10 of them? Go ahead hit Google and let me know how many of those thousands of creatives that worked at Disney have name recognition and how many are now millionaires.

Yea…Yea, there are dozens of names that run at the end of features films and network broadcasts, thank you union negotiators. Besides me who else stays and watches those names and job descriptions.

If you do stay and see those names did you ever try and contact them offering up work?

Most networks (over the air, cable or streaming) now all shrink back those credits to make room for promos and commercials. Making it almost impossible read even if you are curious as to who did what.

You want me to go on?

Okay, how about every musician in the 50s, 60s and 70s who wrote or preformed mega hits for the labels. We all know the stories of musicians who were exploited and many times ended up broke owing the government thousands in back taxes.

Or the explosion of the toy industry in the same eras. How many of those designers now own their own islands in the south pacific?

When I was at ITT Defense they made engineers sign a contract stating ITT owned anything you design while there.  This was and is true at most major manufactures.

Berry Gordy’s billion-dollar Motown music machine which was built on the back of the then anonymous session players at Motown studios.

There is a fine line between following your passion and making a living at following that passion.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a creative say, “I just want to be able to paint or write, or shoot camera.” And then get pissed when they see the seller living larger than them selling the creative’s talents.

There is nothing wrong with following your passion. But the starving artist profile is stupid. You need to run a balance.

Here are some tips:

  • Divide your time up. Do some projects for the money and some dedicated to just your creative passion
  • Keep your ego in check. Don’t worry about not getting credit if it’s one of your money gigs.
  • Never trust anyone 100% with giving you a fair deal.  It’s your job to dig for the details. Not your lawyers, Not your accountants or even 
  • your smart friend.
  • Shoot higher than you think you are worth and negotiate down if necessary. (it’s impossible to negotiate up when you find out you left money on the table)
  • Be willing to walk away from a gig or deal if you think it’s unfair. There will always be another gig if your talented and hardworking. This point is the hardest to accept but it’s true.

As I’ve laid this all out, the most difficult thing about being creative is getting paid for and credit for your creativity. You need to understand that if you want to follow your passion and have it coexist as your career, then it’s a business. In business money is everyone else’s driver not your passion.

You will always here the executives and sellers tell you, “well it’s my money and I’m taking all the risk…” blah blah blah. They are correct, they are taking “risk” but not ALL the risk. The risk is mutual. So, the return should also be mutual. Not necessarily even but fair and fair has to be something you decide not anyone else. A wise lawyer once told me the best deal is the one that no one thinks they won.

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