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‘Favorite’ Questions Creatives Get Asked: “Yeah, but what do you DO all day?” – Part 1

'Favorite' Questions Creatives Get Asked: "Yeah, but what do you DO all day?"


Let’s face it, running your own business is hard work.  Friends, family, and clients often see the ‘romantic’ side of being a creative entrepreneur; raise your hand if you’ve ever heard these little gems:

To a photographer: “You get to take pictures all day?  How fun!”

They didn’t see:
…The stressed out bride whose hair and makeup appointment went an hour late…
…whose grandma – who absolutely MUST be in the family photos…
…that can ONLY take place before the ceremony…
…who got lost on the way to the wedding location (where of course there is no cell reception)…
…OR the screaming children who WILL NOT smile for family photos…
…unless your husband (who is assisting you with lighting) is doing continuous monkey jumps.
(Yes, all of the above have happened to me!)

To a blogger: “Yeah, but what do you DO all day?

You can see the wheels turning as they envision you sleeping in, drinking lattes at fancy hipster coffee shops complete with perfect foam art, writing blog articles surrounded by clients just waiting to hand you checks.  They don’t see:
…The days when you can’t find the words to capture the story you want to write…
…the hours that you wrestled with WordPress…
…because your internet connection was slow for an unknown reason…
…AND your favorite Photoshop action mysteriously disappeared…
…on the eve of editing all the images for the online training program you’re about to release…
…OR your accountant is missing a receipt from January of last year and you’re searching the pockets of the winter jacket you pulled out of storage JUST IN CASE. (This is starting to feel like a confessional… )

To a consultant: “You charge WHAT per hour?

Insert moment of silence while they calculate that based on your hourly rate x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year you must be making $728,000.53 a year.  Basically inferring that they wish they made that much money for an hour of work, not seeing the countless hours of unbillable work, meetings, answering emails, practice, thousands of dollars of computer programs, accounting, marketing, website design, travel time, and the never ending lists of what must get done to keep a business not just surviving but thriving.

To an artist: “Can you just sketch some drawings for me on spec?  I’ve sent the details to three other artists and we’ll decide who to give the job to once we’ve seen all the artwork if our proposed budget comes through.”

My motto?  Just say ‘no’ to spec work.  (But that’s another blog post!) They don’t realize that creative energy comes at a cost to you.  Art is not just ‘fun’, it can be all encompassing of creative energy, time, and very few creatives that I know only work while on the clock.  How many of you have spent hours mentally and emotionally invested in a project while far from your desk and billable time?  I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to sketch an image that popped in my head at 3:00 am, had some of my best ideas come in the shower, or found myself brainstorming while out on a run or during a date with my husband.

To a videographer: My neighbor’s sister’s cousin’s highschooler just got a new point and shoot camera that shoots video and started a business and she would only charge $20!”

Mental face palm.  Breathe deeply.  Smile sweetly. Remind yourself that they truly have no idea that a well-intentioned comment or seemingly innocent question could be that insulting.

To a graphic designer:  “Can you just take 15 minutes and design a free new logo for my new business?  You are so creative it will be so easy for you and a great example for your portfolio!”

They just see what looks like an easy font and icon.  They have no idea of the creative energy, logistics, kerning, aspect ratios, color theory, CMYK/RGB color shifting between print and web, vectors, copyright laws, and a long list of other factors that a professional graphic designer must put into each and every logo.

To a web designer: “Can you design a fully functioning website with a store that I can edit everything myself even though I don’t know anything about web design?”

Once I almost got thrown out of a used car salesman’s office because I gave him a realistic but low end quote on designing a website like this for his businesses and then found out that he was only willing to spend $250.  Yes, you read that right!  I smiled, wished him the best, and drowned my sorrows (and shock) in a good cup of coffee.

To a musician: “I’d love to have you play on my CD! I can’t pay you, but it will be free exposure!”

(And I’ll recommend you to all my other non-paying friends)

If you are new to working on your own or your bank account is feeling a little desperate any of the above comments can be tempting.  Depending on the situation I do think there are specific times that weighing out the benefits may be worth pro bono or reduced rate work – especially when it’s for a good cause, but those are an exception by far.

A little caveat:  I don’t say all of this to be negative or make fun of those that I’ve heard these comments from – I know I’ve unknowingly done the same in talking with people in fields that I have no experience in!  Sometimes in the seriousness of real business in real life, we need a little humor to lighten the load.  Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine!

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 where we’ll discuss: 5 Steps for Responding to “Yeah, but what do you DO all day?” Statements, and a free worksheet for you to apply the steps to these types of questions specifically in your creative profession!

Until then, let’s talk about you!

What are some of the little gems of comments that you’ve heard from well-meaning friends, family, and clients? Take a few minutes to write out 3-5 of the most common questions you hear or the ones that you find are the most difficult to know how to respond too.  Feel free to post below with your name and website address and I will add some to the post!

All the best,

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