Every day of our lives we make key decisions that affect us, the work we do, the people we work with and the how we satisfy our particular artistic preferences. A big decision that affects every freelancer in the creative field is whether to accept a certain job. Some would argue that as we are self-employed we cannot afford to turn down any opportunity for work, money or… “exposure” (rolls eyes). However, I’ve seen this thinking create destructive patterns of behaviour and bring down people’s self-image.
When I am not sure whether or not to take a job, I look at the
Should I Accept this job? Triangle
This is a decision triangle that I made a few years ago after talking to friends who were playwrights, producers, photographers and graphic designers about what factors go into deciding to take on a job or project. It was posted on my office wall immediately and I use it to focus my mind and help to make me feel confident in the decision I make. It helps me cut out the bulls*it and boil down the offer into its core aspects, so I know the risks and potential rewards involved in taking the job. This triangle has three points on it (duh!) which are the key parts of the job on offer. Depending on how many of these points are acceptable determines whether I take the job. Simples.
The job pays well! Financially it will be worth your time, work and effort and will keep you able to afford those luxuries like “food” and “heat”. This should be advertised with the role or negotiated when the job offer is made.
The job will allow you to meet new people, expand your network or develop relationships with people you work well with. They might hire you for another job later on, be good collaborators for future projects or be positive influences that you want in your life. Maybe you have seen one of the other actors on social media or saw a show the director did years ago and loved it. You will get a sense of this when you audition or meet the team.
The job is about something that sets your heart a blaze! The themes or ideas behind the project are exciting, intriguing and remind you why you chose this career in the first place. Usually this will be detailed in the job advert or explained in detail when you meet the team.
Once you have identified each of these it is time to work out how many are in your favour.
First things first, place the job in the triangle, the more the job satisfies the requirements of a corner, the close the job should be placed to it. The ideal (almost mythical) position is exactly in the centre, where all aspects are met equally.
If 2 of the 3 aspects are acceptable you should seriously consider taking the job
Let’s look at some of the combinations you could see:
+People +Passion (-Pay)
You will meet people that might provide more work later on and it is a project that is close to your heart. Fine, it might not pay well…but if the other two aspects counterbalance this deficiency then it is worthy of consideration.
+People +Pay (-Passion)
The job will pay you well and let you meet great collaborators for the future. The only downside is it isn’t a very interesting project and you really don’t think it will stir your soul. Whilst this isn’t great, the job is definitely still worth taking for the other two reasons.
+Pay +Passion (-People)
The pay is good and it is a project that tackles an issue that you are passionate about. But we all know that projects work best when the people mesh and relationships flourish, somehow it comes out in the performance. If you have to work with unprofessional people, those with whom you have had negative experiences or those who are there just to take what they can get from you, ask yourself, “Do I really want to spend my time around these guys?”. While you are involved in this project, you cannot devote time to a more desirable one.
If only 1 out of the 3 aspects is satisfied you should consider declining the job
I’m not saying don’t take the job. Just bear in mind that it might be quite hard to motivate yourself to bring your A-Game. You might find that you gain something unique from the job that you never expected, but it is also likely you won’t; the last thing you want is to be miserable when working on a project that also isn’t paying you well, has you working in the wrong group of people or is about something that you just don’t care about.
+People (-Pay -Passion)
Meeting new people or building on the relationships you already have is always good. The trick in this situation, is to make sure that you are not putting yourself in a financially or creatively stressful place. Make sure you are still earning to support yourself and can find something in the project that is creatively exciting to you. Otherwise, I suggest you might be better off declining the job.
+Passion (-Pay -People)
It is always a luxury to work on a project that inspires you. Whether that is the style, themes, story or some other aspect of the production that makes you swell with joy every time you tell your friends about it. However, there is a fine line between working on something for passion and being exploited for that passion. If you can’t ensure decent pay then make your boundaries clear to the team. If you are not being paid or building long term personal relationships and you don’t want work calls after 7pm, that is ok. If you don’t want to wear a particular costume piece or take a photo for the Facebook event, then that is ok too. No one will be upset with you or think you are being difficult; they will respect the fact that you are laying down a professional boundary. If they do kick up a fuss, then ask yourself, “ is this project worth it?”
+Pay (-People -Passion)
Hooray! A job that means you can pay rent this month without having to go back to your non-creative job! The only downside is you aren’t that interested in the project and the people are the worst. In this situation there is pressure to put in the same top level of enthusiasm as a project you are passionate about. The issue with this is that it can lead to burn out. The best advice for this scenario is to reflect on what your own, personal standards are and aim for them. You do not have to go above and beyond for a project or people that don’t fulfill you. Having said that, if they are paying you well, they still deserve good quality of work from you.
3 out of 3…Why are you still reading, take the F**king Job!
Jobs that pay well and let you meet people whilst you work on something you are passionate about is a rare thing. When they appear, I would strongly advise not wasting time and taking them while you can.
Ultimately, the decision is yours. This can be a useful way to deconstruct and analyse job offers. Ask yourself, “how will this role aid my long-term development as a creative?”It also means you can go into a project confident with what you want to get out of it and anything else is a bonus.
Remember, while you are involved in one project, you cannot devote your time to another one.
This is the first in a trilogy of advice triangle articles. The the second and third in the series, ‘Should I Hire this person?’ and ‘Why am I feeling unsettled?’ will be published in our members area in the coming weeks.