Amanda Palmer's TED Talk "The Art of Asking" was really inspiring. Anyone who is an artist or creator should watch it! And everyone else should watch it too! It deals with a lot of issues (and gives some insight to the lives of living statues).
So much of her talk was relevant to me and they way I work and the way I try to conduct business. It really hit home a lot of ideas for me and made me feel more justified in all of the ways that I feel unsure. Particularly about asking for help and about interactions with fans. And about whether my job is real or not.
She used to be a living statue. She would make a decent and predictable income from it, but people would still tell her to get a job. They didn't understand her job. They didn't understand the exchanges she would have. Her presence and eye contact were a gift of interaction that many people lacked in their daily lives. It was an equal exchange, to those who put a dollar in the hat. An effortless personal interaction. And when her band got more popular, and she stopped being a statue, she still wanted to have the personal interactions. She didn't want to lose something so valuable. And that is really what the point is. Personal interactions have value. A lot of value! Fans find these interactions valuable enough that they take care of her. They invite her into their homes and thank her for staying because she means that much to them. When she wonders if getting things for free is fair, she is met with the resounding answer that it wasn't free, being able to help her and interact with her is enough of a payment. People will help if you ask for it. The situation doesn't work for everyone. But having day jobs doesn't work for everyone either.
I have had two successful Kickstarter campaigns, and I have definitely noticed that my friends, family and fans love to help when I ask for it. And people have told me numerous times that they felt like they got MORE than their monies worth from the experience. Every time I start a new fashion collection, I have a huge amount of people asking what they can do to help! I am so thankful for all of the help that people give me, and I always feel terrible that I can't afford to pay anyone, but I know that they help because they want to and the value they gain from the experience, or the validation of being able to assist is payment enough. It IS a fair exchange. It is one that I feel constantly self conscious about, but I shouldn't. All the Kickstarter money gets spent on fabric and materials so quickly, I really can't afford to pay people for help. There are probably people who would fault me for that, like people fault Amanda for that when she made money on Kickstarter. They don't understand that the creators themselves aren't making money off of that, they are spending it all on the project. And the haters don't understand the value of the interactions. Being able to help someone who's work you admire is a value much deeper than dollars. People even feel disappointed when I don't find anything for them to help with.
People want to help, and I need to stop feeling guilty about asking for help. Society wires us to put a dollar price on everything, but that isn't what motivates people.
The value of interaction is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently, which is partly why Amanda's speech struck such a cord in me. Lately I have been sending messages, thanking people who "favorite" my Etsy store, and asking them to also "like" my Facebook, if they want to keep up with what I'm working on. At first, I felt like maybe it was a bit to close to spamming people, and was a little uncomfortable, but the response was so strong in the other direction! Not only did most of these people "like" my Facebook page, but I started getting replies from people, telling me how much they love my work, and I am an inspiration and they were so glad to find me, and thanking me for existing! And sometimes their friends "liked" my Facebook page too! And every time I would get a message back, or a new "like" I understood that I wasn't sending out spam, I was making a personal connection and helping them discover more of my art. Those are things that they value and I find value in it too!
One of my rare ventures out to interact with fans in real life.
The other part of this issue is that for many people, money is not the main motivation for what they do. You can watch a TED talk about that too. There have been tons of studies about the subject. For the most part, anything involving creativity, is usually not motivated by money, it is motivated by several other factors. Wanting to create something beautiful, do a good job, learn, and master my skills are huge motivations to me. Money actually makes me less motivated. Usually by the thoughts that I'm not getting paid enough for the job I'm doing. Doing what I want to do, for the reasons that I want to do it, is going to result in the best work, at the fastest rate and it will be more likely to become something that I am proud of. I know that I don't personally make any money doing my job, but I keep doing it, because it is what I'm driven to do. It is the way that I work best. And It gives me the best quality of life, because I get to spend all of my time working on what I like to do. I don't need a fancy apartment or possessions, those aren't the things that motivate me.
I still need to make money though. I can't give my clothes away for free; they cost too much to make. I wouldn't be able to afford my fashion studio. But something I can do is let the customer decide what they want to pay. That seems like a much fairer business model. I hate the idea of placing a monetary price on any of my work, but I will feel better about it if it is an exchange. An interaction. A fair trade. I will start implementing that system soon, and I'll let you know how the experiment works out! Feel free to contact me if you want to commission me to make clothes. Or donate your time or dollars to my next collection. Or if you want to tell me how great I am. That works too! Rachael at Rachaelreichert.com