The Creatives Dilemma

The Creatives Dilemma

Way back in 2009, I was asked to carry out a study of the professional lives of almost 100 creatives – crafters, artists and designers – living in the West of Ireland. The overt aim of the project was to research what workshops, training and other support inputs the designers would like to avail of. However, it also revealed worryingly low levels of income among the group. Over the almost 10 years since, I’ve worked with a large number of creatives and repeatedly come across what I term “the creatives dilemma”.

For those of us looking in, a creative might seem somebody who would be comfortable in the realm of marketing. After all, they’re creative, right? And we all know that large marketing and advertising houses are constantly seeking ‘creative’ minds for their client projects, to spin their latest advertising slogan or develop their rejigged branding look.

But artists, crafters and designers are another breed of creative entirely.

creatives dilemma
Creatives like to create. They like to paint, sculpt, weave, dance. I’m generalising, of course, but they don’t like to market, sell, meet, or put themselves out there in any way *. This creatives dilemma results in the low levels of income encountered and the sense of isolation many (particularly rural) creatives experience. Resulting low sales are a barrier to realising their true potential, unless a buyer or influencer just happens upon a creation they just happen to like.

When I mention pro-active marketing to many creatives, or how they might get themselves ‘noticed’, their eyes glaze over. I can sense their internal voice saying something along the lines of “oh, just let me get back into my studio”.

Indeed, once back in the studio, another dilemma is encountered. This one, Scott Barry Kaufman describes thus :

” I am often torn between two extremes– inspiration and self-doubt. There are moments I feel I have stumbled upon a great truth, a new discovery. This enlivens my spirit and motivates me to further explore, and share. Explore and share. The deep drives of the artist. Yet, what happens when we explore, and discover that so many others have trod the same path, have been inspired by the very same questions and have already reached satisfying conclusions? This inevitability can bring out the defenses, the self-doubt. What do I possibly have to contribute to this world? What can I say that hasn’t already been said? “

A Solution to the Creative Dilemma?

But getting back to my own take on the creative dilemma.

In my opinion, there is clearly a need for some kind of third-party marketing person, perhaps initially part-funded by local authorities or other micro-enterprise support agencies. Such a person could take charge of the sales and marketing of a group of creatives from, say, a limited geographic area and for, say, a defined time period. The aim would be to generate awareness of them and make some sales. But such a scheme would require legacy. There would need to be transfer of knowledge to the creatives in the ultra-practical areas of selling, marketing and “getting-out-there”.

* Note : There absolutely are exceptions to this generalisation and some creatives are excellent at promotion and marketing.

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