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How To Not Get Taken Advantage Of As A Creative In A World Full Of Sharks

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Have you ever done good work for a project, put all your heart into it with the best intentions only to end up holding an empty bag? This is something almost all creatives can relate to. The thing is, most creative work is driven by passion; the intense need to create and see your work blossom. People who need this work see it, recognize the passion and they’re ready to take advantage of it.


The recent case of a graphic designer who worked for months on the Living In Bondage project and didn’t get paid a penny yet ended up seeing her design in the film comes to mind. This story is not unique to her as several creatives (myself included) if not all, can relate.


There’s a great deal of chance that as creative, you’ve clients owing you so much you lose count. The more you want something from your work be it fame; money or recognition, the more you’ll get taken advantage of. Because there’s a jaded way non-creative people see creative work. In their heads, creatives sit down, meditate for a few minutes, and voila! A bright shiny idea pops up. It doesn’t take much time so no need to pay much or even bother paying at all.


This is also something even some creatives have come to believe themselves so it leaves them at the mercy of predatory clients who are ready to sink their teeth in for a bite of really good creative work for little or no cost.

In this piece, I’m going to highlight some ways you can reduce the frequency you get taken advantage of in this business.

Place good value on your work

This point cannot be overemphasized. As a creative, churning out ideas is something you do all the time. You live by it. You can only stop having ideas when you die — or can no longer access your brain. Be it graphic designing, articles, sketches and drawings, songwriting; name it all. Once you burst open that creative dam, you can’t shut it. But, the pit hole most get stuck in is not placing a good value for their work hence they charge little or nothing.

How To Not Get Taken Advantage Of As A Creative In A World Full Of Sharks
The value you place on work is how the client will rate you. Do not be afraid to place a good price on it, you’ve earned it

You see, what you do, it’s special. People need it, the world needs it. If they didn’t, you won’t be in such high demand. For every work you do, place value on it. The client might say oh it’s just a 300-word article, or oh it’s just a small logo, it does not require much work. Well, if they could do it, they wouldn’t need you. So set a standard and amp up your pricing. Don’t just charge for the time it takes to get the job done; there’s your creative ability, there’s also the value your work will bring to their business. Sometimes these clients use creative work done for them for years. Take for instance the person who designed the Nike logo. Decades and decades after, his work is still the hallmark of the brand. So, don’t sell yourself short.

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Do your investigation

Some clients are notorious for not paying up. They use one person’s work, don’t pay, and move on to the next. If you’re not too anxious to start and ask some questions within the creative community, you’d catch wind of the gist.

it’s smart to make your investigation about a client before rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. Especially if it’s a big project; you may just learn something important. However, make your own research when you learn something. You can use your personal network or google to verify these claims.


Also, be open to listening and adhering. We all want to give the client a benefit of doubt. Sometimes we tell ourselves it’s was a different situation and this time, it will be different. But you’ve no way of guaranteeing that. Thus, make good the information you receive.

Stay Skeptical

The best swindlers have the juiciest offers. They’ll offer you the highest position in their company or give your express membership to an elite private club. Don’t get carried away, make sure you get your money’s worth from a project before you fall for sweet talk and dreams of grandeur.

Be wary of giving second chances

This is yet another thing most creatives fall for; giving second chances to a client that has swindled them before. If you check, the situation always repeats itself. Once a person has proven to be untrustworthy, be wary of them. They didn’t respect you enough the first time you put in talent and sweat to do their job, then they don’t deserve you. Don’t fall for lies or excuses, rather hold them accountable. Also, make sure you get them to pay for the previous transaction and if you choose to do more business with them, proceed with high caution.

Set up a contract

We all wish we were working with people who their word meant something, don’t we? Well, in most cases that’s not how it is. Get all your business transactions in writing. The smart thing to do is draft an editable contract (not invoice) that states the terms of business and get your client to sign one tailored to your agreements before you begin work. This will protect your end and in case they abscond without paying, you can always secure your bag with legal proceedings.


Finally, protect yourself. Always hold your work in high esteem and put yourself first. Don’t empathise with the client at your own detriment. One or two times you may get taken advantage of as it’s a business hazard but being on the lookout will reduce the chances and frequency of that happening.


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Sarah Oyedo

A reader, thinker, a dreamer and a believer. Fruity cocktails and asun are the way to my heart.

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