Every day I have really interesting conversations with creatives and technical folk about my decision to work with Freelancer.com and how we connect people to design, build, write and create businesses and successes. I then realize (after debating value, distributed economies, the creative processes and other subjects) that we are working with a future model and it truly scares people in a traditional creative economy while inspiring the layman.
Earlier this week I was just updating a good friend (I'll call him D in this article to maintain anonymity) about my new job, about the changing dynamics of the collaborative economy and also plugging Freelancer.com. D works for a cutting-edge digital agency that also does 3D simulations for architectural navigation.
The next day I was awoken with a text at 6am (I am in Vancouver and he is in Toronto so he was Ok to do this).
D: "How would you answer the question: doesn't freelancer devalue the artist and exploit them all to achieve the lowest price? That may or may not be an adequate product at the end of the day?"
Me: "Oh I understand - we get this all the time :)"
D: "By nature devaluing the experience to the lowest common denominator harming the product expectations in the public forum. Over time people come to expect a leaner less thought out solution as the norm and the true designers are viewed as an elite service that is only valued by a few that can afford them or understand the intellectual stretch required"
D: "as a business guy I like it.. as an artist I despise it"
D: "I personally want to live in a world where I am willing to pay more for less if the product I purchase has the attention to detail of the person creating it. The rest is just noise"
Me: "OK, so here's a situation. I needed a poster for my next event. I found a great guy in NZ on Freelancer.com. $55 USD an hour = about $70 NZD an hour. He did a killer job - http://www.ericjordan.com/clients/darkfutures/final/"
Me: "I'm now also going to hire him to create a front and end slate for my videos with motion graphics."
D: "That's it - great work get's repeat business and I went through a lot of conversations with people that were cheaper and more expensive"
D: "too bad... I could have done that for you"
Me: "for $155 - 9 initial versions, 5 new versions and 3 iterations, in 2 days?"
D: "its all good dude don't get me wrong.. but I fight hard the money I make. I need to find ways to take advantage.. can't beat em join em"
Me: "we're catering to people wanting to build businesses on both sides"
D: "what is market value anymore... India prices? global economy sucks... the game is changing."
D: "I downloaded the app"
It was an interesting chat for sure. I had thought a lot about this and was prepared for this kind of chat. This highlights to me that a change in modus operandi for resourcing models and business structure is uncomfortable for many. It's obvious to me that we have to shirk off the norms around cost and location of resources in these situations. Oftentimes people say that it devalues economies, both local and remote, but this is note the case. If I have $10K in my business account to establish my online business I can spend it all locally and then have to do another round to raise more money or I can find comparable resources remotely (using freelancer.com, or by other means) and spend a fraction of the cost. Note, there is no reduction in the expectations around quality expected. Great talent can be anywhere and if I choose someone in an economy with a lower cost of living we both win. It's terribly arrogant to think that a designer in India or Poland is not as good (or even better) than a designer in my city.
Then I got another text about 4 hours later talking about how the conversation and his opinion came to be...
D: "My words some of my own thinking as well as a collection of multiple discussion with creatives I have recently engaged in as we see our world crumbling. Only the strong will survive. And never will they be financially secure in creative. Or at least very very few. So much Creativity has been chopped and sliced into piecemeal deliveries for the best price. Economy always rules. I wish for a creative utopian world. If the world continues to thrive on great ideas but refuses to pay for them the artistry dries up. Gotta water the plants not hope for them to grow in the desert."
This was quite a heavy thought. The end of days for artistry? Reduction to piecemeal work? How do you answer this? My opinion is that it is about efficiency, meeting demand, creating a high volume of good, creative work and being true to ourselves. It's a collaborative process.
I need X and I need it now. The longer we wait, the more we get frustrated and that affects the end product (whatever it is). So, if I try and find what I need locally and don't find it then it is actually harmful to my idea and business. It may be less of an issue in a larger city vs. a rural town but this is something that I feel affects everyone. A couple of years ago I ran an event with a friend. We built a very simple website to act as a blog and have a link to tickets. Designers were critical. It wasn't 'beautiful'. It was effective and simple. Maybe we are expecting a lot from design vs. thinking things out and being clear of the desired effect? This is critical in a collaborative resource model. A bad and ill-conceived brief will equal bad work. A good designer can help you through the process to get to the end goal and there lies the inefficiency. Do the work up front. Even pay for a strategist to sit with you at the beginning. That is money well spent.
The world has changed to be an on-demand society. Fundamentally, the Internet enables that. Freddie Mercury said it well "I want it all, and I want it now." Online resource marketplaces deliver that. freelancer.com is also instantaneous. Post a project, see submissions immediately. That is key for us and for what people expect.
Creating a high volume of good, creative work
Ok, this is the contentious one. Should a good creative solution take a long time? Is the process important? Why can't the process be quick? Look at the logo for Disney. It's Walt Disney's signature. Signature's are quite instantaneous. What about a more complex piece of creativity? Earlier this year Jack White recorded the world's fastest record. His record "Lazaretto" was recorded, pressed, assembled and available for sale at the store with 3:55:21 on the stopwatch. He played two songs live on stage at 10 a.m. Saturday morning in the Blue Room at Third Man Records' Nashville HQ. The two songs were cut directly to acetate, and the masters were rushed from the venue to pressing plant to make the 45s, with a sleeve featuring photos taken during the performance. United will continue pressing and delivering the record today as long as fans line up to buy it. This wasn't even digital recordings and they are even quicker to market. I challenge you to say that this is not high-quality creative work. This is music, images, vinyl and distribution. It's a physical manifestation of what is happening online every minute of every day.
Being true to ourselves
How honest are we with the people that provide services to us at a premium? Or at any cost? We trust creative folk to do a great job. If you are a layman then we recognize that we do not know best and it's sometimes hard to stand our ground when in discussion with a talented designer. Sometimes good designers misread what we want and it's tough to accept what is produced in the end which means more iterations, time and cost. This last part of the puzzle is critical to producing the best result.
This is part of the ongoing discussion. I encourage you to share, chat with your friends, post you comment below and I look forward to debating with you.