Working Together To Create The Creative's Pledge

Challenge: Can we work with roughly 500 members of our community to reach consensus on one document?

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

What is the Creative’s Pledge?

It’s a document that aims to set some standards for ourselves already in the industry and those looking to embark on a career within it.

Our hope is that every creative will sign the pledge, share it with others, make it a part of their curriculum, their first day handbook, and keep it as a handy note of guidance to look to when things get a bit tough.

It shouldn’t be too late to benefit from some of the changes and standards we hope to set if you’re already well established in the industry, and it should absolutely help to remove some of the “rites of passage” that have been normalized in the past for those who will carry the baton into the future.

Working together

The writing below summarises the discussions we’ve had on the original version of the pledge, and arrives at ‘final copy’ for each point. These discussions happened in the Facebook group, in the shared Google doc and at events across Australia.

We had so many excellent ideas and suggestions from people. As I’m sure you can appreciate getting everything into one final clean document is a challenge. I hope we’ve done the community justice. I fully expect this to evolve over time and we’ll come back to it and update it based on feedback as people try to use it.

Speaking of “trying to use it”. We’re currently working on a home for the pledge where it can live and be signed. Bear with us… this will hopefully be coming soon!

Breaking it down

We originally conceived the pledge in 5 parts to help make sure that we were capturing everything.

  1. Your mental health and wellbeing

  2. Looking out for others

  3. Valuing your creativity

  4. Client relationships

  5. The future of your and our creativity

Below you can read each line of the pledge in 3 parts.
ORIGINAL — the original wording we put to the community
Notes — a brief summary of the discussion and feedback
FINAL — the final recommended line to include in the pledge

The Pledge

1. Your mental health and wellbeing

As a creative…

ORIGINAL — I’ll never work more than 60 hours in a week for more than 2 consecutive weeks, so that I can keep myself fresh.

Notes — People couldn’t really agree on a time. E.g. 40, 50, 60. Suggestions that a more positive way of putting it could be I won’t sacrifice time. So how do I keep time for myself / family / friends.

40 hours is the normal contracted working week. What if we introduced 40 hours as a personal contract with ourselves, to keep to ourselves?

I will keep 40 hours a week for friends, family and my own personal development and wellbeing. I won’t sacrifice this time for employers or clients.

ORIGINAL — I’ll never work more than 3 consecutive weekends without taking at least 1 day off to recover so that I can pursue other things in life that I love and enjoy.

Notes — This isn’t really needed with the above amends

FINAL — Deleted

ORIGINAL — I’ll do at least 1 activity a week that’s designed purely to stimulate my creativity and keep me excited about being a creative.

Notes — This isn’t really needed with the above amends

FINAL — Deleted

ORIGINAL — I won’t sit at my desk for longer than 4 hours in a row, I know I’ll be more productive if I get up, walk around, get some fresh air and clear my head.

Notes — Lots of debate here citing various studies and methodologies. From standing up every 45 minutes, to moving 5 minutes of every 30.

I’ll get up and move around at least once an hour when I’m working intensely to stay creative, focused and physically healthy.

ORIGINAL — I’ll give my colleagues, friends and / or family a heads-up if I’m starting to feel tired, down, blocked and unmotivated about work and life in general.

Notes — We’re merging this with the one below.

FINAL — Deleted

ORIGINAL — I’ll summon the courage and do my best to speak up and take a break if I’m feeling tired, down, blocked and unmotivated about work and life in general — knowing that I have a community around me to support me.

Notes — This was very important for the community. Concern that not everyone has a supportive network. Use of words ‘have the courage’.

If I’m feeling down and unmotivated about work / life, I’ll summon the courage to reach out to those around me who can listen, offer support and understand what I’m going through.

ORIGINAL — I’ll be honest and realistic about my workload. Taking on what I can, and speaking up when things are getting too much to handle.

Notes — Some good discussion here about identifying when things are getting out of control. Also, what can we do to help each other (can probably be addressed in a later clause).

I’ll speak up when I recognise that things are getting out of control. I’ll keep focused on what is ultimately most important — my wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the people around me.

ORIGINAL — I know that exercise, diet, yoga and meditation are good for my creativity, my body and my mind — and I’ll do my best to live a healthy life, especially when work, clients and my workload can be challenging.

Notes — It’s difficult to dictate how people should spend their time looking after themselves outside of work. Everyone is different. But, universally staying healthy is good for us and our creativity.

I’ll prioritise living a healthy life, especially when work, clients and my workload are challenging.

ORIGINAL — If I’m experiencing poor treatment in the industry and / or an unhealthy workplace culture I’ll speak up and I’ll reach out to the community for help, guidance and advice.

Notes — How important is it to protect anonymity? How do we guarantee a safe environment to talk about our mental health?

We need to setup a private, anonymous forum for people who have real time issues. Or find a way to help people protect their anonymity.

I will seek help, guidance and advice from the Never Not Creative community to address poor treatment in the industry and unhealthy workplace culture, knowing that my anonymity can be protected.

2. Looking out for others

As a creative…

ORIGINAL — I’ll be mindful of those around me and what they might be going through — knowing that their mental health and wellbeing is more important than work and business.

Notes — Good discussion here about the impact of our behaviour on others.

I’ll be mindful of how my communication and behaviour impacts the mental health and wellbeing of others, also keeping in mind the example I may be setting for others.

ORIGINAL — I’ll offer an ear, a walk, a coffee, or any way to let someone who’s given me a heads up know that I’m here for them if they’d like to talk or just take their mind off work and life for a while.

Notes — This can be more active, relating to one of the previous lines about looking out for others.

I’ll offer an ear to someone that’s having a hard time so they can take their mind off work and life for a while.

ORIGINAL — I’ll make sure that if I work inside a business, the business is aware of how it should be looking out for its employees, have a mental health policy and help them to be a better place to work.

Notes — We should provide links to resources here. Also, if a business already has something in place our role is to ensure its followed vigilantly. 
Interesting note — what’s the glassdoor rating on mental health or a mental health policy for company?

I will collaborate with others in my business to make sure that my employer is looking out for staff, has a mental health policy and actively abides by it.

ORIGINAL — I believe in an inclusive and diverse industry and will work with others to make sure that everyone is given opportunities to succeed, regardless of who they are, where they come from, what stage in life they are at, or what they believe.

Notes — Be specific and more active in calling out poor behaviour / prejudice.

I believe in an inclusive industry where everyone is given opportunities to succeed — calling out sexism, racism, ableism, ageism as I witness it.

ORIGINAL — I’ll be mindful of the examples that I set others through my own behaviour. If I’m staying or working late, others may feel like they have to do the same.

Notes — This is included in the clause above.

FINAL — Deleted

3. Valuing your creativity

As a creative…

ORIGINAL — I will not give my work away for free in order to compete against other creatives.

Notes — Many believed there should be a full stop after free. However, there was debate about being in control of giving work for free and doing it for the right reasons. It shouldn’t compromise you or the industry. Important that people understand when we give work away for free it sets expectations that businesses can get free work.

Very hard to get this right. Adding something after ‘free’ starts to dilute and devalue the statement, but we do need to recognise the passion we have to want to make things better — which is of course — good for our mental health.

I will not give my work away for free. I may choose to help causes that I am passionate about, but my choice to donate time and expertise will never be to compete with others.

ADDITION — Unpaid internships was an issue that came up through the community in numerous discussions. We thought it was important that we called it out specifically in order to address the issue head on.

I will pay interns for the work and value that they create — helping new people entering the industry to understand that their time and skills have value, regardless of age or experience.

ORIGINAL — I will invoice clients up front for work that I’m doing in order to minimize the gap between work being done and fees being paid.

Notes — 50% up front should be a standard. Others don’t think its realistic. Purchasing agreements with large clients may not allow it.

I will invoice 50% up front for projects that will last longer than a month in order to manage the sustainability of my business.

ORIGINAL — I won’t hand over final work until it is paid for or that I’m confident that I will receive full payment within a maximum of 30 days.

Notes — General consensus is files upon payment, seems quite clear.

I won’t hand over final work until it is paid for.

ORIGINAL — I will value my own time, knowing that time to myself or time to be inspired and be with others, is just as valuable as time spent “on the tools”.

Notes — Didn’t create any discussion / commentary. Not sure we need it. Deleting in the interest of length.

FINAL — Deleted

ORIGINAL — I will constantly evaluate the value of my work, looking back at past projects and judging how much they were worth to my clients, in order to estimate how much my work should be valued at in future.

Notes — There was a discussion here around how experience = value, and therefore how that should be monitored and grown over time.

I will frequently review the value that I provide clients. As my experience and expertise grows, I will have the confidence to ensure that it is appropriately rewarded.

ADDITION — I will not speak at conferences/events for zero compensation if the event is for-profit and costs other people money to attend.

I will speak up when I believe something/someone is not being valued, even if it is against the current industry standard. I will challenge the status quo for a fairer and more even playing field for people, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status.

I will only speak at events that strive to overcome gender bias through the representation on their lineup.

Notes — This has been debated a lot recently and we’re keen to include it. It’s a hot topic. Prejudice is referenced in a clause above so need to ensure we’re not doubling up.

I will demand better standards for industry events. I will not speak or present at an event that doesn’t strive to equally represent the different perspectives in the creative industry or that offers zero compensation when the event is for-profit.

4. Client relationships

As a creative…

ORIGINAL — I’ll help to educate clients on how long projects take, what the process involves and therefore how much a project is likely to cost.

Notes — We’ve also discussed publicly displaying how long a project takes / amount of effort when showing case studies / portfolios to prospective clients.
Also, some clients may not choose to have this discussion — and it may be better to walk away.

I’ll help to educate clients on how long projects take, what the process involves and therefore how much a project is likely to cost.

ORIGINAL — I’ll always be firm and fair with clients, respecting their point of view, whilst clearly communicating the rationale for my ideas and solutions.

Notes — There was a great comment here about not disrespecting a client behind closed doors in a studio because of the example that can set for the rest of the team. Also suggestion of the word transparent.

I’ll treat clients the way that I expect to be treated, with fairness, transparency and respect for their expertise.

ORIGINAL — I will not communicate with clients (within reason i.e. if a project relates to deliverables during an event or different time zone) outside of the hours of 8am and 7pm. Most things can usually wait until tomorrow.

Notes — There were comments around working with clients in different timezones and this not always being plausible. This one can be tricky in specific cases, but they’re one offs.

FINAL — Deleted.

ORIGINAL — I will be clear with clients on what the likely deliverables are for a project (and / or phases of a project) in order to manage their expectations and ensure that invoices can be sent and paid on time.

Notes — The below will replace some of the clauses above and we’ll work on what a contract like this could look like.

I will present and agree a contract with my client that clearly covers scope and deliverables, expected behaviour, mutual respect, reasonable hours for interaction and fair payment terms.

5. The future of our creativity

ORIGINAL — I will actively contribute to the community as and when I can to help others, share experiences and expertise, to build a stronger, fairer and more creative industry.

Notes — There were some additions here around nurturing and leadership, but this suggested a certain type of person / level of experience, so we kept this one as a more universal pledge.

I will actively contribute to the community as and when I can to help educate and empower others, share experiences and expertise, to build a stronger, fairer and more creative industry.

ORIGINAL — I will use this pledge to educate and empower those around me, whether they be fellow creatives or clients.

Notes — Included in the clause before.

FINAL — Deleted

ORIGINAL — I’ll never stop learning. The world isn’t going to stop moving and changing, and as a creative, neither will I.

Notes — Moving to what I will do with this pledge

FINAL — Moved to end

ORIGINAL — I will work on my balance of confidence and ego. I will not let the traps of imposter syndrome hold me back (knowing that there are many others just like me), but I will also not let my ego get in the way of the right solution or giving others a fair voice.

Notes — Feeling that this is covered in the changes made above.

FINAL — Delete

I will use this pledge to stay creative, help others, look after myself, and help build a better creative industry.

What now?

If you’d like to see a clean version of the pledge without notes and commentary you can access a final Google doc here.

I’m getting really excited where this can go next. Here are a few use cases that I’ve discussed with a range of people over the last few weeks.

  • If you’re a student and get invited to do an unpaid internship… politely decline and say you’re a member of Never Not Creative. Direct them to the pledge and let them know there are many more people like you.

  • If you’re an employee, share this with your employer. Discuss some of the components of the pledge and, if they agree, endorse it and share with the rest of the team. If they don’t, have a discussion around why not.

  • If you work on your own / for yourself. Print it out, stick it up next to your desk and remind yourself daily that there are others there for you when the going gets tough, and how important it is to look after you and your business.

If you have other ideas, please comment below or share in the Facebook group.

We’re working on a page now where the pledge will live and you’ll be able to digitally sign it.

Also, as promised before, a client / employer version of this pledge will quickly follow. Stay tuned.

Many, many thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. It’s such an honour and a pleasure to be involved in this great community of smart, passionate creatives — and exciting to start to get something tangible out in the world.

ArticleAndy WrightFeature