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How to Afford Hired Help When You’re Still A Struggling Artist? - Hey Onicia

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In an interview with 2 and A Bottle, they asked how I afforded to hire an assistant for creative ventures. I am pro paying people for their work because artists die from exposure; ‘likes’ and retweets do not pay the bills. Here’s how I’m able to pay people even though I’m still in that struggling artist phase.

Hey Onicia is a series where I tap into my type-A side and answer questions from my friends about this starving artist life. If you find this helpful, share with your twitter homies or thank me with ice cream. Want to chat or collaborate? Holla at me!

First off, major side eye to people who blow mad cash on taxi rides, Beyonce concerts, and fast fashion while begging for free labor. Seriously, offering me five bucks so I can buy a pint of ice cream for things I do to pay the bills is less insulting than demanding it for free.

Save up and pay full rate

I wish everyone could get their asking price. If you can afford it, pay it. You can’t build a business on free-99 services; you’ll eventually have to crack open that wallet.

If you don’t think a project is worth investing money in, why would your potential audience want to pay to experience it? If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, why should others invest in you? If you can’t fund your original vision, consider doing it solo, scaling back, or postponing.

Pay less for less

An alternative to premium and full-time is basic, part-time, or on-demand. When I became self-employed, I knew I needed help with my taxes. I’m not McDonald's; I don’t process hundreds of transactions per hour. Every Friday I balance my books and schedule invoices. I only hire an accountant for annual/fourth quarter tax filings.

If you’re trying to get more bookings and struggle to manage your emails and calendar, instead of splurging for a full-time assistant, just pay someone to help twice a week. If you are booking so many gigs that you need a full-time assistant but don’t have the funds, please go and reevaluate the type of gigs you accept.

Offer a stipend

‘Stipend’ or ‘honorarium’ are fancy terms for underpaying. In an episode about financing and budgets of Dream. Work. Film. Kelsey Jorissen explained she never pays less than minimum wage for non-union film projects. So, although a graphic designer should charge $125/hour, consider offering a $15/hour stipend.

Hourly work can add up quickly. For flat rate work, offering $50-75 for a half day and $125+ for full days is a good starting point.

Remember: you get what you pay for. To make stipends and discounted work more appealing, offer non-monetary goods to fill the pay gap.


Exposure on its own is not a valid form of compensation -- it’s exploitation.
Auntee Rik (Suit369) has a great post on how to barter smarter. In lieu of full payment, you can offer equity or trade skills. Even a LinkedIn recommendation is a super valuable gift.

With equity, your collaborator now has decision making power. The vision evolves into something you’re both passionate about. If you want to be a dictator, you need to have dictator cash. FYI, there are no broke dictators.

Be sure trades have expiration dates and are valued equally. One hour of graphic design does costs more than copy editing.

The lifespan and organic reach of social media posts are so pathetic that it’s only worth it if you commit to showing love THROUGHOUT THE YEAR!

You heard me correctly.

If someone gives you discounted work, you can either make it your mission to eventually pay them their full rate or commit to singing their praises for a long time. For the love of all things profitable, don’t tell people they gave you a discount. That only makes it harder for them to earn their worth.

That’s how I can afford professional/reliable/good help for my creative projects. What’s your experiencee?

I'm a creative with type-A tendencies who tried working in a call center but realized I'd rather help creatives get organized. I'm pimping out all my marketable skills to fund my art and ice cream habit.
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