Creatives Need to Be Valued and Fairly Compensated for Their Work

The Business Impact of Creativity Has Long Since Proved Its Worth. That Needs to Be Recognised and Rewarded

Learn Through Stories
Learn Through Stories

A Case Study: Juliet’s Story:

Juliet resigned from her job as a features writer at a tabloid newspaper.

Why? There were a few reasons. The most pressing being, she didn’t feel valued. She felt her work was undervalued and under-compensated. She was expected to work crazy hours for very low pay and to be thankful for it. She had been with the company for three years, and despite having written compelling story after compelling story, she was still expected to prove herself. She was continuously being told she was only as good as her next story.

The final straw was when Juliet was asked to help recruit the next group of freelancers. She was instructed to ask each of them to write three stories:

  1. A news story;
  2. An investigative feature;
  3. A human interest story.  

Writing the stories was part of the interview process, and Juliet was OK with that. What she wasn’t OK with was knowing that if they were offered a position, they’d take the job on a wing and prayer, and these would be the first of the stories they would be expected to pitch for free, then hope they’d get paid for their work. 

Juliet realised in that moment that her company would never change. They would never truly value creatives and pay them fairly. She could no longer be part of a company that behaved in this way and she resigned.

She didn’t want to find herself in a similar situation again, and so, as she figured out what she would do next, she reflected on her experience by thinking through her values.

The warning bells had been there from the outset, but she had ignored them.

Why? Because she desperately wanted to move from the sleepy village where she had grown up to the vibrancy of city life in London. 

Experiencing life in a city such as London, was in fact, one of Juliet’s values. As with many great cities of the world, she loved that it was a melting pot of different cultures, and these were the stories that Juliet wanted to tell.

Juliet had bought into the job description that her ability to research and process new facts and information would be valued and nurtured. She valued challenging people’s thinking. But the reality was she had never been able to go as deep and wide on the topics she had covered. This was despite being promised time and time again that her learning, growth and development in this area would be supported—an important value for Juliet that had been dishonoured.

Juliet had a passion for storytelling and an ability to create compelling narrative by capturing moments, meaning and magic to make sense of the world. This is what she valued most about her chosen WorkLife, and this is what she believed her purpose to be. But her on the job experience fell far short on this. 

Reflecting on her experience by thinking through her values, Juliet realised none of her values had been honoured – while she had experienced the vibrancy and cultural aspects of London city life, she hadn’t been given the opportunity to write the stories of the people she yearned to write about. So that value, too, had fallen short of living up to her wants and needs.

And now she found herself in a situation where she had to move out of London and go back home, because, without work, she couldn’t pay her rent. That one small part of her values that she had been able to honour, she could no longer do.

Moving back home meant she could live rent-free while she continued to ponder what she could do next. She still didn’t know what this was. All she knew was that she didn’t want to go from the frying pan into the fire, which is what she was concerned would happen if she were to take the traditional approach of applying for jobs within her industry. She believed there had to be another way, and she was determined to explore and discover what that could be.

Wanting to keep her hand in with her writing and wanting to earn some income, she started sharing her stories on online platforms for writers – she started her own blog, she shared this on platforms which included: Medium, Substack, Patreon, and Buy Me A Coffee. She shared some stories for free, and she started a paid publication for subscribers on platforms that allowed and supported this. She got immediate traction which built steadily over a matter of weeks.

Within a short space of time, Juliet was earning more than she had made in her job at the newspaper.

Revisiting her values once again, Juliet considered if these were now being honoured in the new WorkLife or way of working that she had accidentally carved out for herself.

  • Creative work being valued and fair compensated: Absolutely yes.
  • Experiencing the vibrancy and cultural aspects of city life: Not at this moment, however, she was now in a position where she could afford to move back to London, which is what Juliet planned to do.
  • Challenging people’s thinking: Absolutely yes
  • Continuous learning, growth and development: That was a yes too. Juliet had learnt so much within a matter of weeks.
  • Compelling storytelling that captures moments, meaning and magic to make sense of the world: Another absolute yes.

Epilogue

What amazed Juliet most about her own story was how when she took a step back to first consider her WorkLife situation to date in line with her values, and then how when figuring out what to do next, her actions led her to turn her WorkLife around in the most profound of ways, by honouring her values so easily and effortlessly and within such a short space of time. Juliet hadn’t consciously given a lot of thought to the actions she had taken, other than wanting to keep her hand in writing and wanting to earn money. Now she realised that subconsciously perhaps, her values had, in fact, guided her, and this simple exercise of checking in with her values had brought about a profound resolution to her WorkLife situation.

Juliet was, in fact, blown away by this, and she vowed to check in with her values regularly as she began the next chapter of her WorkLife story as an independent features writer. 

To read the next chapter of Juliet’s WorkLife, tap here: The Creative Freelancer Who Came in From the Cold.

WorkLife Values Assignment

The purpose of the following assignment is to help you think about your fundamental values. This greater awareness is valuable for when you consider what type of job role, sector and work environment will suit you best, along with what is important to you in your life outside of work that you need to consider. 

Following is a list of subject headings. Look through it and choose between four and eight headings that matter the most to you. Add more headings to the blank boxes if you wish. Then under each heading, write a short description to express the meaning it holds for you.

For example, Juliet’s most important values, which helped guide her through the WorkLife situation she found herself in and in her decision making since then, are:

  • Creative work being valued and fairly compensated: I want to work in a space where I can expect the value of my work as a creative, rewarded by fair compensation;
  • Experiencing the vibrancy and cultural aspects of city life: I want to write the stories of the optimism and resilience of the real people that shape the cities of our world;
  • Challenging people’s thinking: I want to share more facts and research to challenge how people process information;
  • Continuous learning, growth and development: I always want to strive to be the best journalist through exceptional writing and interviewing skills honed by experience;
  • Compelling storytelling that captures moments, meaning and magic to make sense of the world: I want to add context beyond the basic lines by writing interesting stories that readers will enjoy.
AdventureAutonomy Beauty ChallengesCity Life
CompassionCompetitionCommunication Confidence Courage 
Create Creativity EducationEnvironmentEquality 
Excitement FairnessFaithFamilyFinding Solutions
FriendsHappinessHarmony HealthHelping Others
Helping SocietyHonestyHopeIndependence Influence
InspirationIntegrityJoyKindnessLearning
LoveMaking a Difference MoneyOpenness Passion
PatiencePeacePeoplePersonal DevelopmentPersonal Growth
Professional DevelopmentProfessional GrowthPerseveration Problem SolvingPurpose
RecognitionResilienceRespectSecuritySerenity
StrengthStorytellingSuccessSurvivalTaking Risks
TechnologyTrustVarietyWellbeingWork

It is important to note that some values may carry more weight or importance than others, and may be deal-breakers. For example, in Juliet’s case, being part of the recruitment process of freelance writers and knowing their work would not be valued and fairly compensated was her deal-breaker and her wake-up call that it was time to walk away from a situation that wasn’t about to change. In the short term, this led her to leave London and to leave one of her values behind. Juliet recognised that while she had no control over her value of her creative work being valued and fairly compensated if she remained with the company, she did have control over her value of experiencing the vibrancy and cultural aspects of city life. Even if that meant stepping away in the short term, she knew she would find her way back.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Now that you have awakened or re-awakened your self-awareness to what is most important to you, it is good practice to check in with yourself to ensure you strive to live your WorkLife true to your values. Journaling is an excellent way to do this. Writing in a journal is a way to record the raw thoughts and observations you have during the day. Consider it a short daily investment in yourself.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

Begin by simply asking yourself: 

Did I live my WorkLife today true to my values?

If Yes, what was great about this?

If No, Why Not? 

What do I need to do differently/what needs to change to allow me to remain true to my values?

Words of Wisdom

While things do not always change on a daily, weekly, monthly or even a yearly basis, this simple practice of regularly checking in with yourself by posing these questions demands that you stay in tune with your values.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.