A few weeks ago I attended Australia’s first Creative 3 conference, hosted by the Queensland University of Technology. Rather grandly, the 3 part means “Creativity x Investment x Enterprise – the Power of Three!” (imagine excitable crash of a cymbal there, presumably).
I shouldn’t be so glib; the conference was fantastic and a great opportunity to discuss creative business with a bunch of similarly-minded devotees. Something bothered me, though, and since this is my blog I get to air my bothers.
We discussed creative business a great deal, and engaging speakers told us that Australia should focus more on the creative economy, and clever people advised that those of us who help or support or work in creative enterprise should be as business-like as possible about everything we do.
Absolutely true, couldn’t agree more, there was only one problem. The speakers and experts were focusing almost entirely on creative businesses that have a turnover of a million dollars or more. There was very little discussion of smaller creative businesses, and nothing much at all about freelancers.
I tell a fib, there was one speaker who referred to us as ‘lifestyle businesses’. That’s those of us who are ticking along nicely, working in the arts for ourselves, making enough money to put a roof over our heads and feed our kids and buy a new pair of pretty shoes or go on holidays every so often. We warranted a mention, but were then brushed over as not requiring the attention of the powers that be (the power of three!!).
Now, I fancy being a millionaire one day but I’m also perfectly happy being a “lifestyle” creative business. More to the point, practically every single person that I’ve consulted to over the last fifteen years of teaching creative business has wanted only that. Some of us are more ambitious than others, and millions are lovely, but I believe the vast majority of us would be perfectly happy just to be creative for a living and have enough money for nice things every now and then.
It’s easy to ignore freelancers, but if supporting a creative economy is the issue then freelancers must be considered. In November 2008, over 1 million people were working as independent contractors in their main job. That’s 9% of the workforce. Of those people, about 100,000 were working the creative sectors. If 100,000 people making enough money to support themselves and their families aren’t worth the attention of the power of THREE, then it’s a short-sighted vision indeed.
After all, those million dollar turnover businesses had to start somewhere. And I’d wager a pair of pretty shoes that most of them started as creative freelancers with a bit of talent, a good idea and a fire in their belly. If those freelancers get ignored too much, our thriving creative economy will falter. It will become a good idea that once had its moment in the sun, and has been left to squander on the conference circuit.
Happy freelancing in your lifestyle business!
Freelancing for Australian (for Dummies) is available in bookstores and via the Freelance Success website right now – visit www.freelancesuccess.com.au/books for more information.
|Reference: 6105.0 – INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS. Australian Labour Market Statistics, Jul 2009|