In the 5th grade, my teacher, Mr. Falcocchio’s 5th grade class, led a lesson that I’ll never forget. He divided the class into two groups. To the group I was in, he handed a large stack of grid paper and told us that we were to produce as many colored drawings as possible in 15 minutes. We were to assign the job of foreman to one person — me — and each other person was to take a single crayon. Each drawing had to have at least one spot for each color.
As foreman, I was in charge of determining where each color went on each drawing. I numbered my classmates who had their crayons at the ready, and I wrote corresponding numbers on the drawings I created.
When I looked across the room, I thought this was a simple test of speed: get as many pictures out as possible so we could beat the other team. At the time, we were studying the rise of factories during the industrialization of America. It made sense… we were a factory, and we had to compete to win.
So my drawings were simple… as fast as I could crank them out, I drew numbered grids and flung them down the line. When the buzzer rang, Mr. Falcocchio gathered up our heavy stack of completed drawings and gave us high-fives for working so industriously.
Then he went and gathered the much smaller stack from the other group. He collected one piece of paper from each student, and held it up in turn. One was a mandala, another, a bird. There was a race car, and some flowers, and a forest scene.
Ours… were grids that were sloppily colored before being passed down the line. I’m being totally sincere when I say this… they were garbage.
My team turned to me, angry, and asked why I didn’t draw better pictures. They said I made the entire team fail because I just drew squiggly grids. That’s when Mr. Falcocchio stepped in and said, “Now hold up… your task was to draw and color as many pictures as possible in 15 minutes and as a team you produced nearly 30. Bravo!”
“Yeah, but theirs are so much prettier!” one of the girls exclaimed.
And there it was… the lesson. Working in the industrial fashion to produce a creative products generated flat, dull and lifeless results, whereas our craftsmen across the room took the time to create the best work they could in the given amount of time. We discussed how factories are great for certain items that require consistency at volume, like cars, tools, or refrigerators. But when it comes to creative work, there will always be a need for skilled craftsmen. You cannot, will not, ever generate high-quality creative work while under the pressure to produce volume.
That’s a nice story, but why tell it here?
There’s a very ugly, industrialized side to the independent creative working world that has cropped up on the Internet over the years. Content mills, such as Upwork and Fiverr, have risen to popularity, and they remind me of that lesson learned way back when I was ten years old. These sites and their ilk promise clients quality content and creative while delivering a lowest-bidder, fastest-worker environment. There is a reason they’re called “mills.” They exist to grind out creative work systematically, rhythmically, and monotonously. In truth, they exist to line the site owners’ pockets off the backs of would-be craftsmen.
When you hire an independent creative off of a content mill, the chance that you’re going to receive the best quality work for your money is slim. I won’t say “none,” because I happen to know a couple writers and artists who have taken work from those sites who I’d recommend to anyone. However, they have since moved on — as most good creatives do — because the pay they were receiving wasn’t in line with their capabilities, and definitely wasn’t enough to support them.
So what you get from a content mill is someone who MUST churn out work as fast as possible to survive. Your projects won’t receive the time and effort they are due, because your content-mill-creative has to self-impose artificial time limits on herself in order to make ends meet.
Your project deserves the craftsman touch.
The ability to write compelling copy, generate stunning visuals, put together an exciting product video, or complete any other creative project you have in mind… that’s a skill. Those crafts require education and practice to perfect. And like most craftsmen, your independent creative is always learning, always working to become better. They want your project to succeed, not just because you’re paying them, but because it’s a reflection of who they are. Your success means that the craftsman you worked with knocked it out of the park.
When you work with a craftsman, you can experience some amazing results:
- The branding expert you hire might just make your brand a household name.
- The blogger you contract with could help you increase not just site traffic, but brand trust and market credibility.
- The videographer you work with could create your next viral video.
- The social media strategist you enlist could open you up to market segments you didn’t even realize were interested in your products or services.
These few examples represent the potential of working with an independent creative who has the time and energy to become your brand advocate. Rather than simply churning out whatever you paid for, the person you contract at a reasonable rate has the breathing room to learn your company, your customers and your goals. They can then conceptualize, strategize and provide deep insight to deliver amazing results.
What if I can’t afford an independent contractor?
Before you write off this advice and head toward Upwork, consider this:
Creative projects tend to be iterative. When you work with someone who is qualified and capable, she can help you scope your work so that you receive exactly what you need right now within your budget, while laying a path forward that meets both your creative and financial needs.
You may not get everything you were thinking of up front, but in marketing, that’s not always a bad thing. Your consultant can help you dig through the success metrics of each project in order to fine-tune and retarget. By working with a skilled independent in this iterative fashion, you can compound your success upon each project, providing more capital to grow both your business and your project scope in the future.
Are you ready to knock one out of the park?
If you’re looking for a digital story that will drive your audience to action, contact me. I’d love to discuss your needs and help you scope your project so that you can generate more success for your business without blowing your budget.