I launched Content 10x four years ago and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made!
It’s come with lots of ups and downs, plenty of changes and passing trends, but there is one thing that has come up consistently in that time.
Yes, it’s the age-old problem of people undervaluing creative work.
Now, I think I’ve been pretty lucky with Content 10x. We work with a lot of incredible clients who really get the value of creative work and content, but that’s not to say I haven’t had plenty of frustrating sales calls, and I know other agency owners and freelancers sadly encounter this problem more than I do.
What is it about creativity, more so than any other type of work, that people undervalue so much?
I suppose it’s not surprising — we all have our blind spots and can undervalue things when we don’t necessarily understand what goes into them, but it seems to be especially prominent with creative work.
What do I mean by ‘undervaluing creative work’?
Let’s imagine someone, we’ll call them Ben, is looking for someone to create a pretty complex infographic. That’s somewhere between 4 hours and 8 hours of work (+ revision cycles) for a designer, or a full day of work for the graphic designer.
But Ben thinks an infographic is a pretty quick job that’ll cost $40 or $50.
The graphic designer quotes their day rate of $400 and all hell breaks loose!
This happens to creatives all the time and it’s not just with graphic design work, but video editing, podcast production, copywriting, and writing.
Or, for another example, if Ben wanted a 1-hour podcast interview written up into an SEO focused, 2,000-word, high quality blog post.
In their head they are thinking that’ll take a couple of hours, they underestimate the time it takes. not factoring in the fact the writer has to listen to the episode, make notes and go back over sections of the interview, researching keywords, writing a draft, finding references and links, going into more detail, redrafting, and editing.
That’s at least a day’s work (on a good day)!
Why does creative work suffer so much with undervaluation?
You simply don’t see this kind of undervaluation in other professions.
If you hire an architect to extend your house, you don’t assume how long an architect needs — we respect their profession and are guided by them.
If your car is making a funny noise, you take it to a mechanic and let them diagnose the issue and fix it.
If you want to change your hairstyle, you go to a hairdresser, ask their opinion, take their advice, and let them do the work.
If we’re not the expert, we defer to experts!
So why do people undervalue creative work like this when other industries are treated more respectfully? I think there are two big problems at play…
Good work takes time
A lot of this problem stems from a misunderstanding of how long good work takes.
The idea of the graphic designer’s day rate isn’t the ‘offensive’ part of the example above, but Ben expected the creative work to take an hour or so.
As I mentioned earlier, if people aren’t skilled or experienced in a certain field, then they can only guess at how long it would take. If the finished product is ‘just’ a one-page design, it simply can’t take that long, right?
People lose perspective
Content can do amazing things for businesses when it’s done well.
Most business owners would agree that content is valuable and that they believe in content marketing because most of us recognise that content marketing is audience-centric, not business-centric. We create content to attract people, not distract them.
Great content isn’t about interrupting people, as with display ads or commercials. It’s about attracting people by informing, educating, entertaining, inspiring them, making them a part of our audience, and turning our audience into customers.
Clearly, content can transform a business — but the value in that can be missed by some people.
Let’s take another example, say someone wants to get into shape so they hire a personal trainer for 4 sessions a week over 12 weeks at $60 an hour. $240 a week, $2,880 for the program. Body and lifestyle transformation for £2,880 — great!
If that same person wants to embark on a project to up their LinkedIn game with video editing, a podcast, and ghost-writing — to transform their personal brand and business… The idea of paying $240 a week for such a service is unimaginable to them!
People will invest in themselves sooner than their business or brand.
The problems with undervaluing creative work
Undervaluing creative work isn’t just bad for the creatives, it’s bad for the business owner too!
If a business owner falls into the trap of undervaluing creative work, one of two things generally happens:
- They underinvest, allocating a budget based on their own beliefs and expectations. So they spend $30 a week on graphic design and get something low quality. Instead of changing their approach, they repeat this cycle with new low-cost designers, getting little back and getting frustrated before probably giving up.
- They never invest at all. Their frustration at the cost of good creative work supersedes their desire to create good content. They might try and do it themselves or put pressure on their team to take on work they are either not skilled in or don’t have the time for.
Neither are ideal!
How to start valuing creative work properly
Ultimately, you have to be realistic about hiring people to support you with creative work.
Do not lose perspective. Do not expect to pay a designer the same hourly rate you offer to your kids to clean your car! If you do, you may find yourself constantly disappointed or under-supported and not achieving your goals.
Instead, come back to recognizing that content is king.
Remember the power of content.
Think about what you are creating content for and how it helps your personal brand and your business.
I think the biggest thing any business owner can do to change their perspective on the power of content is to see it as an investment, not a cost.
If you invest wisely in content, and you have the right strategy in place, there is a strong ROI.
If you’re a creative, I’d love to know if you have ever experienced the undervaluing of your work? If you hire creative support, does any of this sound familiar?
I’d love to hear about your experiences — good or bad. This is an important conversation for us all to have!