Let’s talk about money. Everyone has a relationship with it whether they are conscious of it or not. As a commercial designer, your creative energy is your specialised resource that you build on, refine and learn to channel throughout your career. As a result, you deserve to be fairly and abundantly compensated for your expertise.

I have recently learnt that money is not merely a pay check but a form of energy. It is neither good nor bad. It is a means for shelter, safety, nourishment and wellness. We receive it in exchange for the exertion of our own personal energy.

According to Dan Millman in The Twelve Gateways of Freedom, abundance is dictated by the quality of our interactions with other people and our ability to receive and to give. It is interesting how we first must possess the ability to receive money in order for it to come into our lives. This is why it is so important that we understand whether we have any unconscious limiting beliefs around finances and release them.

Talking about money is culturally taboo, yet I think that the dialogue in an industry dominated by sole traders and increasing number of creative SMEs needs to be as open and honest as possible.

At the beginning of my design career I always believed that money was hard to come by. I have tried to understand what factors contributed to this with the hope that others will question some of these design industry cultural norms.

Starting salaries are notoriously low

The expected salary for a junior designer at an agency is around $35,000-$40,000, which roughly equates to $15-$17 per hour after tax. This was hard for me to digest since I was undertaking a four-year degree that called on so many skill sets and technical expertise. On top of that, my retail job paid better. As a result I believed that my design output was not valuable and that I had to practice for a number of years before it was valuable. Even though you may be no Stefan Sagmeister after three years of design education, your skills are still valuable. Please remember this.

As junior designers and graduates, what ways could your employers make you feel more valuable in other ways besides payment?

Internship culture

Unpaid or low paying internships are often promoted as the doorway to any full-time design gig. If run professionally, internships can provide the young designer with the necessary mentorship and skills that provide them with value. What internships are not, is regulated. Not all employers have the intern’s personal development within their own interests.

As interns, how do you deem whether an employer has your personal development and goals in mind? What value can they offer you?

Jobs scarcity and any money was good money

After graduating I applied for at least twenty roles before settling into freelance web design. It was a rigorous task landing a gig, despite having four great studios listed on my CV. When I was offered a position, it didn’t even occur to me to negotiate my rate.

What skills make you valuable as a designer so that you can negotiate a better rate? What personal and technical skills would you consider?

Feeling like a cost, instead of a person

Unfortunately this happens across many industries. Someone in a senior position, with a constant fixation on their expenditure treats their employees like a cost to their company instead of a human resource. This happened to me in my first year out of uni.

My dream employer turned out to be an unprofessional nightmare with a relationship of scarcity towards money. My employer would talk about overheads and the modest budgets of their client-base whenever they wanted me to work faster. My focus was shifted away from my own personal growth towards worrying about whether their studio was losing money due to hiring me. All the while, I was being paid $20 an hour without any extras. It was an unhealthy way of treating an employee and left a very bad impression.

If you were running your own studio how would you make your employees feel valuable? How would you motivate them in a healthy way to make their deadlines?

Trading off payment for the reward of “doing what you love”

Who in this industry hasn’t stayed back to burn the midnight oil and found themselves enjoying the process in some way? It is great that you can feel that sense of achievement and inertia, but it cannot become an expectation if you value your creative energy.

Let me reiterate that you are worthy of receiving a fee for the energy that you expend for your employer. If you are burning, monetary compensation is due.

What tricks do you have for getting yourself out of the studio on time? What person would you like to spend time with if you left work on time today?

Tips for creating more monetary abundance in your creative life:

1. Know your market value

Research the standards for someone with your expertise. Do not simply use Google, speak to people within the industry! Talk to creative industry recruiters about what rates would be expected for your skills and experience. Do keep in mind that recruiters charge an additional fee to the employer on top of your rate.

Get in touch with your network of senior creatives and ask them if they would mind talking to you about payment since it is something you want to build your confidence in. I had the good fortune of doing this last week and the advice was invaluable. The senior creatives were honest enough to tell me their own personal rates because they wanted to put me in better stead then they were at my age. I was able to develop a goal of what I would like to achieve.

2. Don’t hang around people who believe money is a scarce resource

As Jim Rohn put it, make sure your network isn’t full of negative tight asses. Instead surround yourself with people who know that they deserve the good things in life. As recommended by SARK’s Succulent Wild Woman, start a social money group with people around you who are interested and open to exploring money in their lives. SARK’s task is to:

•Set a regular time to meet, for example monthly or weekly
•Select a book (resource) to start exploring within the group. SARK’s recommends “Creating Money” by Sanaya Roman
•Make a time commitment, 1-3-6-12 months
•Choose a facilitator, or rotate each time so that the group does not dissipate it’s energy “chatting”
•Keep notes. Your money group is revolutionary and deserves recording.

3. Identify your money beliefs

Awareness of your beliefs is a powerful thing because you are then able to understand what motivates your actions and thoughts. The Twelve Gateways to Freedom offers questions to help you determine what your money beliefs are. Some of these include:

•Does money issues periodically monopolise your attention?
•Do you believe money makes you happy or unhappy?
•How do you feel about wealthy people?
•What do you spend more time thinking about, money or love?

4. Know you are worthy of life-enriching resources

As researcher and storyteller, Brene Brown states “The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe that they are worthy of love and belonging.”

If you believe you are worthy of life-enriching resources like love, money, leisure and pleasure, then you are more likely to receive them. A simple but powerful concept.

5. Set money goals

I listened to Earl Nightingale’s talk Understanding Money at the end of last year and set two of the money goals:

1. Your yearly income for next year
2. Your desired amount in your savings account for next year

I set these goals without a job or any plan as to how I would achieve them. On top of that I set the bar very high. So far I am pleased to say that I am on track. The human mind is brilliant at attracting the things we ask for, so ask for more without rationalising how you may get more. It is a powerful thing to value yourself.

Happy creative money-making.