What Creatives Can Do About Feeling Undervalued and Underpaid

What Creatives Can Do About Feeling Undervalued and Underpaid
Image credit: Peta Hopkins | Flickr

Creative entrepreneurs have a brain type that I call Innovators + Influencers.

When we come up with ideas or make connections between disparate topics or subjects, it often comes in a “flash of brilliance.” While that may seem like it’s easy or involves no work at all, the reality is that this type of brilliance is rare -- only about 15 percent of the population is capable of making these connections easily. That means your brains are more valuable in creative pursuits than other brain types.

Related: 5 Steps to Build a Creative Business from Scratch

More importantly, you can only make connections between disparate ideas if you have a lot of those in your head -- or if you’ve been exposed to these ideas through reading, research, art, etc. When you’re reading, your brain is filing away ideas for future use so that you can have a flash of brilliance at a later point.

Think about that for a moment. If you are an Innovator + Influencer then your brain can do things that 85 percent of the population cannot do. Because creativity is at the core of business, arts and design, that means your brain and the corresponding output is much more valuable than you may think.

If you think, “That was easy” or, “Anybody can do that,” then you’re undervaluing how your brain works. You’re probably also under-charging for it -- in other words, you are likely underpaid.

But that’s not the only reason Innovator + Influencers are underpaid. Our own belief systems can prevent us from valuing our own work, time, output, productivity and results. How many times have you put in hours upon hours of work on a project only to say, “It’s not great,” or to think, “It’s not that special -- anyone could do it.”

How many times have you had a friend or colleague give you glowing feedback or make a remark about how great your work is, only to wave it off by saying, “It was nothing.” You need to recognize that the person who made the comment isn’t just being nice -- they are acknowledging that they can’t do what you just did. They are giving you a clue that you are special, talented and creative. Listen!

Related: 5 Tips for Creatives to Profitably License Their Work

Until recently, it was very difficult to determine the “hidden beliefs” that hold us back, but over the last few years, I’ve been working with hundreds of Innovators + Influencers to detect the beliefs that prevent them from earning what they are worth. Here is a list of some common beliefs that hold back Innovators + Influencers:

  • I’m not worthy.
  • I’m not special.
  • I’m an idiot.
  • I’m evil or bad.
  • I don’t deserve to be wealthy.
  • I don’t deserve the spotlight.
  • I don’t deserve to be recognized.
  • Who do I think I am?
  • I couldn’t possibly charge that.
  • My work isn’t that good.
  • It’s so easy, it can’t be worth anything.

How many of those beliefs do you have? You probably have a few. Even one belief can make a huge difference in your confidence and your ability to earn what you’re worth.

Here's what you can do about being undervalued and underpaid:

1. Take stock.

If you work for a company, try to determine what they are charging clients or customers for your creativity. It’s often five to 10 times the amount they pay you!

2. Watch your language.

If you make the comments that “it was nothing,” “anyone could do that,” or “that wasn’t special,” then you’re automatically undervaluing yourself. If you catch yourself saying these things, ask a trusted friend or colleague how they value what you produce or check in with your manager. Often finding another perspective can shift how we value ourselves.

3. Do research.

Check job postings for work similar to yours. Check out the salary ranges for those positions. If you’re way off, it’s probably time to look for employment that values your creativity and talent.

4. Get help.

Don’t languish in a position where you are underpaid or undervalued. Seek out a career counselor, coach or recruiter who can evaluate your work and tell you what you’re really worth on the open market and possibly help you identify and change the beliefs that hold you back.

Which of those beliefs and habits are holding you back? It’s time to recognize that your brain is special and you can change your limiting beliefs.

Related: 5 Keys to Successfully Manage Creative Employees