Isn't creativity amazing? We see it everywhere. In the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the music we listen to, our home decor, the books we read... the list goes on. And with e-commerce now so widely used, creative businesses are springing up everywhere, with sites like eBay, Etsy and Notonthehighstreet providing a welcome avenue to business success for many creative small businesses.
Yet there still seems to be a stigma surrounding the idea of making money out of art. There are plenty of people who declare that they "don't do it for the money" because they enjoy the creative process so much, and plenty of others who see this as somehow more worthy than aiming for profitability.
I believe that it's not just ok but actually desirable to run a creative business for the money as well as for the enjoyment of it. And here's why.
What we pay for in our society says a lot about what we value. We all feel the injustice of this, some more frequently than others. Why do nurses get paid a fraction of footballers? Why do city investment bankers get paid hundreds of times more than social workers and teachers? There may be financial reasons for it but it rankles with most of us because it feels like as a country we are saying that some of the most worthy jobs are not highly valued. And although money isn't everything, actually it is a large part of how we express our priorities, both as individuals and as a society.
Creativity is a fundamental part of being human. Imagine life without it. I can't. It's impossible. It's human to create, whether you're an engineer or a weaver. It's really important for our souls and minds to see beautiful things and make beautiful things, to spend time with colour, texture, taste and to interact with other human being's creations. So it's important that our society put our money where our mouth is and allow creative people to make a living out of what they do.
Too long we have accepted the struggling artist or actor as a fact of life. I question this. Why should someone get paid less than a living wage because they pursue a creative profession? How many of us would enjoy a life with no theatres to visit or films to watch? It's time we valued the arts just as much as we value the art of making cold hard cash on the stock market.
I'm not ashamed to say that while I absolutely love my job and enjoy it, one of the main reasons I do it is to make a living. And I speak for a lot of cake makers when I say I enjoy it a lot less when I know I've significantly undercharged for something. Finding fulfillment in our work is not just about being creative, it's about the dignity of being able to use your hands to sustain yourself and your family by earning something with your craft.
Unfortunately, because there are plenty of people who do make things for a hobby - while there aren't quite as many who do a bit of law or chemical engineering on the side as a fun leisure activity - we have bought into the lie that those who do the same crafts for a job should get paid a pittance. It's great that lots of people love to create for fun, but this should not by any means equate to minimum wage (or less) for those who make a career out of it. (And as a side note, once turned into a business, it generally becomes safer, as insurance is purchased, regulations followed etc.)
No matter how much we hate to talk about money, I think this is something we need to address. It's time to value creativity with our cash as well as our words. The outcome can only be beneficial. I'm in the 'Bliss' bit of that diagram above, thanks to awesome clients who believe creativity is worth every penny. Thanks for keeping me there.