Never Not Creative:
fighting creative burnout
By Andy Wright
Do not be alarmed. This is a test. This is a hypothetical day in the life of a creative business owner.
Today, I got up and had breakfast with my partner before going for a run. I got into work around 9.30 and spent some time planning out the important things I needed to focus on that day. I had a new business meeting at 10.30. It was some new product from a big FMCG company, a revolution for Mum’s, would save them time and money, etc. I finished the meeting (it ended up going for about an hour and a half) and told the accountant to send off an invoice for the time we’d spent together.
Around lunchtime I replied to an email from a government body asking us to provide some ideas for free by next Friday so that they could work out if they might like to work with us. I let them know that we’re a professional service and that any time spent “coming up with ideas” would need to be charged at the same rate as work for our other clients, who all seem to be happy to pay us as such.
Just after lunch, we got together as a team (everyone in the business) and looked at some important decisions that needed to be made this week. We put pretty much every decision to a vote. We have such a wide range of experience, backgrounds, perspectives that this is the best way to make sure everyone is heard and understands the decisions that get made.
In the afternoon, I was really happy to let (let’s call her) ‘Sarah’ know that we were promoting her to Creative Director. She’d recently returned from maternity leave, had been pivotal in some work that had saved one of our biggest relationships, all while working 3 days a week, and well, just thoroughly deserved it.
Around 4pm, everyone started to head home. A few stayed so that they could work on some freelance projects they had on – I reminded them not to forget to lock up before they leave.
If you’re reading this with an ironic smirk, and a wry smile, thinking, here we go again, some other deluded advertising revolutionary that’s going to tell us we’ve got it all wrong and advertising is fucked – then just check yourself as I tell you...
All of the above are stories from real people in real businesses, that I’ve heard in the last 3 months. You see for many people, this type of day (and the day of others involved in it) is actually pretty normal. This isn’t some rainbow colored, unicorn riding utopia. It’s just normal and common sense for a bunch other people in different businesses or different industries to ours that know how to commercialise a business and reward their employees appropriately.
THIS is normal (or is fast becoming so):
Getting paid for work (not giving it away for free)
Considering the opinions of all of your team (not just the potentially over-proportioned male contingent in your leadership team)
Promoting women to leadership positions (regardless of their working arrangements)
Leaving work at a reasonable time to relax, spend time with family, or on self-development / other projects
Taking on interns and paying them (rather than paying them nothing and using them to do work that you get paid for)
Constantly monitoring the wellbeing of your employees, both mentally and physically
I’ve spent many years in this industry. I’ve worked through the night, through weekends, and seen to what’s expected—I’ve even worn it as a badge of pride. I’ve set bad examples and made bad decisions for other people. I’ve seen many, many people do the same around me. Some have handled it, some have ended up very ill, and others have chosen a different career direction. None of these people were stupid. In fact, none of us are. We just have an inherent need to not let anyone down and to create work that could really make a difference.
What no-one needs to do is to seriously damage themselves doing it.
I believe generational change is coming. But waiting for generational change means that there will be too many casualties before it arrives. So instead I’d rather we start making changes now. Start respecting the value we offer to clients, society and the world. Like any other profession, we have experience and expertise that is worth paying for. We have people that deserve opportunities and deserve looking after as they chase those other opportunities.
That’s why I set up this community called Never Not Creative. It’s a place where we can all come together to identify the issues we face as an industry and then do something about them.
While awareness of many of the issues I’ve written about here is on the rise, it seems to stick at discussion and awareness. It’s time to take action and develop solutions.
It’s actually something we’re bloody good at for other people. Now it’s time to use those powers for ourselves and not feel selfish or embarrassed about doing so.
Never Not Creative doesn’t need to own the solution. If you know of other great initiatives happening, please get in touch and we’ll help support them. That’s why it’s been great discussing these things with Gabberish and working out how we can help each other.
If you want to get involved you can join us on Facebook (https://facebook.com/groups/nevernotcreative) follow us on Instagram or Twitter @nvrnotcreative or read more about what we’re up to on Medium (https://medium.com/never-not-creative).
We run events from time to time, we’ve been to Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne in the past couple of months. If you’d like to get even more involved just contact me directly through any of the above channels.
Coming up, we’re launching a mental health survey into the creative industry in collaboration with government institution Everymind, and working with other partners to pilot mental health workshops for creative businesses, as well as developing and launching a series of pledges that will raise standards for ourselves, clients and business owners – so please, keep an eye out.