I Had to Share: A Cool List for Creators of All Stripes from Austin Kleon

Next March, Austin Kleon has a new book coming out. It’s called “Show Your Work.” If Kleon’s name sounds familiar, it’s because this will be his third book. His previous titles are “Steal Like An Artist” and “Newspaper Blackout”. Kleon is a self-described artist who draws.

On the new book’s companion blog, there’s a top ten list that provides a sampling of the book’s content. I think this list is timely, essential reading for creators* in the 21st century. It’s also an effective “teaser” for the book. This link is here.

#1 is “You Don’t Have to Be A Genius.”

No one undertakes anything new in a state of omniscience. Put more simply, No one can know the ending before even beginning.

And who would do anything if they knew the ending? Where’s the fun in that?

I am excited about this book. Until it is released, there will be more teasers to get me (and other interested readers) by via Twitter, @austinkleon, and at the blog, showyrwork.com.

*=I could add entrepreneurs and anyone else having to start a new chapter of life here.

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Writer for Hire, Freelance Doesn’t Mean Free.

When someone tells you they are a “freelancer”, please don’t assume, or presume that means they work for free.

The word “freelance” stems from soldiers for hire, or “free LANCES”.

These “free lances” weren’t soldiers named Lance. They had a lance, or a sword, a mace, a gun, or perhaps, all of the above, in their possession. Whichever piece or pieces of weaponry they had at their disposal, they knew how to use it.

Where does the “free” part come in? Each soldier for hire had no biases or loyalty to a crown or other form of government. They would fight on behalf of anyone willing to pay them. For example, Hessians were Germans hired by the British Crown to fight on its behalf in the American Revolution. If you saw The Patriot with Mel Gibson, there were Hessians featured in that movie. [PS: It’s no accident Hessians’ dress resembles the Nutcracker dolls we see every Christmas.]

Fast forward to the present. Many artists and writers are freelance laborers. Often, no one company has enough work to fund these creators full-time. Companies’ project flows for these creators is sporadic. Maybe that’s a good thing for the creative, because having a diverse batch of clients to work means there is less chance for the creator to get bored, stale, or feel stifled.

But creators earn and deserve pay just as much as any regular employee, even if their work has an abstract versus tactile quality. The creator is birthing things from their brain that did not previously exist on an employer’s behalf. If the employer could or wanted to do the creative, they wouldn’t hire someone else to do it. What a creative does is not easy to wing. Why waste time trying when you could just hire someone?

Creators deserve to be justly compensated for their efforts, at an agreed upon amount. Some creators may decline payment, or choose to donate payment. But creators who choose not to be paid are in the minority, they shouldn’t set the tone for their overall industry. Some attorneys do “pro-bono” work, this doesn’t mean they work for free for everyone.

An employer who wants to use a freelance worker’s efforts for years shouldn’t assume buying them dinner one time is  just compensation. If your creator for hire disagrees, they are in a tiny minority.

Making the “exposure in lieu of payment” claim is also weak. The smaller (or newer) a company is, the less it really knows its exposure or what that exposure is worth. Also, the smaller (or newer) it is, the more that amount is at or below zero. The smaller or newer they are, they can’t or won’t afford a marketing firm to find out the exact numbers and values. They also fail to provide the exposure statistics to potential workers that they would ordinarily supply to advertisers in their publications or sponsored events.

In my experience, they don’t throw any event tickets or other networking opportunities to their creators. This is really too bad, and it’s not about the freebies. It’s about big missed opportunities for creators, associates, and potential clients to mingle. To see each other and interact as real-live people, in real time, instead of names, email addresses, gravatars, and twitter handles on a screen.

In closing, I am a writer for hire. I do not work for free. I wish anyone who doesn’t wish to pay their creators the best of luck in receiving amazing results.