From the outside, successful creatives can seem like they jump from achievement to achievement, from one blockbuster project to another, always making exactly the right decisions. In reality, everyone who’s ever worked in a creative field has plenty of horror stories to share, from unrealistic client expectations to late payments and more. Usually, the best way to stop them from happening again is to cast light on them, which is exactly what the event aimed to do.
Our three panellists, Candide Kirk, Sarah Paul and Manos Kalamenios came from different industries and backgrounds, but there were a few common themes that kept recurring across their experiences. One of our panellists and Design District tenants, Manos Kalamenios, is a practicing ceramicist whose work has been exhibited in galleries, public installations, museums and biennales around the world. Kalamenios detailed a tricky contract that he found himself agreeing to –still delivering high quality products even after the client continually changed the brief and deadlines. For Manos, this was a cautionary tale about following the projects that you want to do, as opposed to just saying yes to everything that comes your way.
Far too often, dealing with finances creates obstacles to creative success or fulfilment. Candide Kirk, Design District tenant and the founder of Novellic with over 15 years of game production and game design under her belt, emphasised the importance of being careful about where funding is coming from. Candide explained, “When someone has given you money, sometimes you give them credibility because of that, but you later realise that there are strings attached.” It’s far too common for creatives to be asked for a project to be three things - good, cheap and fast. But part of valuing your own business and brand, and setting yourself up for future success, involves charging fairly for your services and being bold about what you want out of the relationship. As Candide added, “Remove the personal from negotiations - creatives can be scared of numbers, but actually knowing your numbers is often the best trick'.
Sarah Paul, who is a business & leadership coach and facilitator with a background in finance, production and acting, emphasised how important these decisions could be, saying, “Don’t allow other people and their agendas put you in a situation where your work or your brand is being compromised.”. She related a story about a project she agreed to - even though she was unsure whether she’d be able to finish it to her own standards – because she didn’t want to potentially ruin her relationship with a client. Now, she says she’s more discerning because she can be - and that the experience has taught her to honour her knowledge and pay attention to the warning signs that her gut was giving her. She said, “Saying no to the wrong thing also often means that you’re leaving space for the right thing.”
Key Advice from our panellists: - Assessing the situation regularly, such as checking in with your team or your gut about whether a client’s brief has changed, whether there seem to be red flags or whether there’s any alarm bells already ringing. If so, come up with a plan or an exit strategy.
- Even if you’re doing pro bono work, send over an invoice or financial document with details of what you would have charged.
- Fake it til you make it can be good advice, but if you’re not being honest about your own work, other people, whether community members, funders, or the media, will pick up on it.
- Working with friends can be tricky - either you lose your friend, or you lose your mind. So treat it like a business agreement first and foremost.
- Don’t become a factory for someone else, particularly if your name is attached to a piece of work. You have to believe in what you’re doing, or no one else will.
For more events, check out https://designdistrict.co.uk/events