We’re fast approaching the three-year mark since the pandemic, and most creators have found their new normal. Our new “normals” are all unique, but the common thread is a re-evaluation of our goals, priorities, and non-negotiables as working artists. WeTransfer and TRIPTK surveyed over 6,500 artists from 180 countries about success, fulfillment and happiness. The 57-page report was published as The 2022 Ideas Report and I’m here to share the findings. First, let’s start with a quiz. Grab a pen and let’s see how you’re on track with the state of the art.
who was questioned
Before I share the findings, let’s dive into the highlights of this fascinating 57-page report. From photographers to videographers to ad strategists and TikTok creators, more than half of respondents (52%) work full-time, 25% are self-employed, and 8% work part-time. Take the quiz below to guess the results before I post them.
The culture of personal sacrifice
An overarching theme of the findings was the narrative of being pushed into doing a wide range of jobs, with grueling hours and a disappointing sense of appreciation. The Ideas Study reports: “Creative careers are often referred to as ‘dream jobs’ where ‘doing what you love’ naturally and inevitably leads to success… [yet] Success in the creative industry today isn’t about effortless genius, it’s about insane rush.” Creatives express that success in this sector takes a lot of work and compromise. An overwhelming majority of respondents (78%) said they were willing to make personal sacrifices to achieve their career goals. This attitude was particularly prevalent among 25-year-olds, including Gen Z’ers (82%) and Black creatives (90%).
WeTransfer summed up the sentiment expressed:
Creative people are no strangers to overtime, rush jobs and late-night hours. There is a general acceptance of the culture of personal sacrifice and sweat as the price of working in the industry. Dinner plans are postponed, doctor visits postponed, vacations postponed to perfect a performance or to meet a last-minute client request. Nearly 70% believe work, not unique talent per se, is the key to success, and they are willing to make sacrifices to achieve their career goals.
Many creatives, like tech entrepreneur Marty Bell, have expressed a longing for clearer ends to their workday and clearer boundaries between personal and professional lives. In his interview he says: “I would like to be able to separate my work and my life. How many of my friends can see my career as a job. With 6 you can switch off completely and go into ‘privacy’ mode.”
One question he’s begun to ask himself is, “A year from now, will I regret not doing this?” This question helps him figure out what’s worth the sacrifice and what’s not.
This is an opinion expressed by many respondents in the survey. The post-COVID workforce expressed a collective desire to make their boundaries more enforceable. When asked what skills the creators most wanted to acquire, it wasn’t about creating roles, learning to market themselves better, or new crafting skills, but “saying no.” It may be that society’s forced pause has prompted many to draw firmer boundaries in their working lives. Olivia Lopez, creative strategist, laments the scope creep. It’s a notorious practice to add tasks to a project outside of the contract. Artists as a whole shared a collective exhaustion from their workload and a desire to be able to detach themselves from the demands of the job outside of work hours.
A redefinition of success
There were fascinating insights into success. When asked if they felt successful, only 44% of respondents said they felt successful, with more than half admitting they felt they had failed as creators. I was quite surprised by this next result: when asked about the definition of success, respondents didn’t name an impressive list of clients or recognition as a great performer, but rather a sense of making a difference (22%), self-development (19%) ) and time away from work (18%) as the most important indicators of success.
views about the future
Interestingly, WeTransfer and TRIPTK found that a whopping third of creatives changed jobs in 2021. In the coming year, a more conservative 20% say they will look for new opportunities, while 15% prefer to wait and see how big the potential recession will affect them. Additionally, creatives admit they don’t feel prepared for the future defined by technologies like AR, VR, and AI.
The quiz results
You may have noticed many of the answers while reading the article. In case you missed them, here is your answer sheet.
As I pieced together the facts and sentences in this report, I was disheartened at how bleak the creative community seemed to be. “We’re tired, we’re underpaid, we don’t have a private life anymore,” the study seemed to say.
thing, 9:49 p.m. I swipe up My client asks “It’s too late for a GIF, oh and maybe a Christmas table decoration for tomorrow’s shoot?” I struggle between saying yes or no. I continue to work on my article. I understand the sentiment I am summarizing.
There is a sense of guilt in experiencing some of the complaints expressed in the study. We feel that the privilege of practicing our craft as a profession somehow negates our entitlement to be dissatisfied with the challenges of the job. However, as I thought more deeply about the results, I wondered if they were really just creatives? Would we feel differently if we worked in health insurance or in accounting? According to the literature on the subject, including this Forbes 2022 article, Burnout Is A Worldwide Problem, creatives are no different than the rest of society with the same struggle. people are tired So what do we do?
Dare I, just another artist in the mix, find solutions to global exhaustion and creative burnout? Certainly not. Still, in my 14 years as a full-time artist, I’ve learned some strategies that work for me. One imagines me working in an office for a boss that I have to report. Shudder. Visualizing a booth, fluorescent lights, and someone to report to makes me instantly grateful for my circumstances. It doesn’t solve any immediate problems, but it does remind me of an alternative I don’t want to choose.
Another strategy I developed is mentioned in the study: the ability to say no. I had to read the book If I Say No, I Feel Doubtful Before I Saw Even the Slightest Improvement. Saying no is a learned skill that leads to a healthier and more fulfilling life. Eventually, I learned to block “unstructured time” on my calendar and protect it tightly. “I will be a better creative when my mind is healthy”. Everyone wins, even my clients, when I take the time to ignore the incessant flow of communications. It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to be willing to do something you’ve never done.” So maybe your action point from this article is to grab a notebook and to reply, “What am I not doing anymore?” Then you actually have to comply.
I think if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable and health matters. What is your conclusion from all this? Are you surprised by these results? Do you wake up, do your best work and live in a space where you feel valued and supported? Or do you agree with some of the results of the study? Have you dealt with burnout? What did you take away from these seasons? I would love to hear about your experiences and strategies for creating and cultivating joy in your work.