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Design Teams......should Designers get paid?

 This is a different kind of post, I'm not sharing any makes today.  But I wanted to talk to you about something that might be a bit controversial within the Arts & Crafting Community. I must have written this post maybe 6 or 7 years ago but wasn't sure if I should post it as, I didn't want to upset anyone.  However, the more and more I thought about it, rewrote it and tinkered with this post, the more I felt compelled to share it.....even if it's a bit controversial.  And the subject relates to Design Teams and the issue around whether the Designer should get paid a wage and not just paid in products. I know there are going to be varying opinions about this but please hear me out.  I think as Crafters, we tend to undervalue our work a lot and I think this plays a major role in how Design Teams work....and possibly take advantage of that fact. If you want to hear more about my thoughts and opinions of Crafters,  commissions, "favours" and paid work, please read my previous post HERE, called "Just because it's handmade, doesn't mean its cheap".

Now, firstly I must preface this with a disclaimer; I am not here to name and shame any Company in particular.  No one has approached me or caused me to have a bad experience with a Design Team.  I am not giving off because I'm jealous or was not accepted onto a Design Team.  I've been asked to be on numerous Design Teams, so it is not that I have been snubbed by a Company and this is my evil revenge, lol.  This is merely my own personal opinion and thoughts on the subject.

For those who don't know, a Design Team Member is a Crafter who is "employed" (that term is used loosely) for a certain length of time by a Craft Company, to produce artwork/craft projects for them in exchange for that company's product.  The Crafter is usually asked to produce a set amount of projects a month, as little as 4 projects a month but can be anything upwards and beyond that; showcasing the craft products that said company sends you.  Now, a lot of Crafter's will think to themselves...Woowhooo, free craft supplies....but remember the old saying, if it seems to good to be's too good to be true....well, this, in my opinion has never been more true.  

As I said, I am not naming and shaming any one Company here, so I will use a random hypothetical craft company here in my example, to explain why I feel Design Teams can be a little too good to be true.  So, say The Loopy Craft Company (Made up company, obviously) wants to get some Designers to showcase their craft supplies.  Ohhh Loopy Loo looks like the perfect candidate for the "job".  She has an active blog and YouTube channel as well as social media platforms like facebook and instagram....she'll be perfect.  So, Loopy Loo gets all excited about working with The Loopy Craft Company.  All she has to do is produce 8 projects a month using the free craft supplies that The Loopy Craft Company sends her.  But it's never that simple.  In the terms for the Design Team, there are all these little "extras" that Loopy Loo has agreed to.  Ok, so 8 projects a month is a great amount for Loopy Loo.  That's 2 a week which is doable.  But then she realises that 4 of those projects have to be video tutorials.  And all 8 projects have to be made by a certain date and uploaded to all forms of social media, facebook, instagram and including writing out a detailed blog post about what she made, how she made it and using what products which also must include multiple detailed photos.  And of course, there will have to be photos to accompany the projects.  Suddenly, this Design Team with free products is starting to sound more like a full time job than a nice way to get some products to play with.

So, Loopy Loo has no problem getting her projects made on time.  She spent many hours coming up with ideas, jotting them down and even making a few mock ups and buying a few extra basics that she needs to complete the makes.  But she quickly realises that her photo and video quality isn't that great and she's having to buy a better camera to take detailed photos and even maybe a better camcorder and memory card for recording videos too.  Oh, and then there's editing software to edit the photos and videos.....and boy does it take hours to edit a step by step tutorial.  But then when it comes time to upload her video, Loopy Loo's kids need the laptop for school work so she has to wait until they finish with it so she can upload her video tutorial to YouTube on time.  Now Loopy Loo is considering buying another laptop that she can dedicate to her Design Team work so there's no issue with the family needing it.  But then the kids want to watch a movie on Netflix and now her video upload is saying it's going to take 4 hours to upload and the kids are complaining that Neflix is buffering because her video upload is eating up the bandwidth.  So, rather than let the kids miss their movie, she waits to upload her video until after they go to bed.  Suddenly its 12am and she's sitting over her laptop, watching the upload bar slowly fill up.  But, it's ok because she now has the laptop and don't forget the detailed blog post she has to write up with the photos of all her makes.  And she needs to make sure she has links back to the Company's products for each and every product she uses.  So she spends hours sifting through The Loopy Craft Company's website, copy and pasting all the products details and web page links into a document so she can share them on the blog post.  Then she remembers she needs to edit some of the photos she took and has to retake some photos as they didn't showcase the products as she'd like and they looked like they had a yellow tint because of the light bulbs in her house. But that's ok, that's easily fixed with buying daylight bulbs, which are very expensive and whilst she's at it, she may as well invest in an Ottlite.  And sure, why not throw in a photo light box so she can take photos of her makes in style.  She wants to ensure that the products look good on screen so taking the time with staging the makes and ensuring the photos look good is worth the investment, she thinks.  

Then, the Craft Company has asked her to send the makes back to them because a Crafting Expo is coming up and they want her makes to adorn their stall to showcase how their products have been used.   So suddenly Loopy Loo has an earlier deadline as she has to take everything to the Post Office to send to the Company, in plenty of time for the Expo.  And then they also want some examples to share on the actual companies social media channels like YouTube etc., for a new product launch or to share at a face to face class.  So, the items she's spent hours and hours making, photographing, videoing and showcasing aren't even hers at the end of it all.  Ok, some Companies will send the projects back to her, but by the time they've done the rounds at expo's or have been showcased over and over again at a face to face class, her projects are probably a bit more tattered and worse for wear by the time she gets them back.  Then poor old Loopy Loo realises that although she is using the products they sent her, she is also eating into her other craft supplies like paper, glue, double sided tape, scrapbook papers etc., because the company doesn't supply her with absolutely everything she needs to produce a project.  So Loopy Loo is now having to spend her own money to replenish her own basic supplies just to be able to make and use their products.  Basically, Loopy Loo has become a Designer, Maker, Social Media Mogul, Photographer, Video Editor and Sales Person all for the payment of a few free craft products...that she might not even get to own in the end.  And even if she does.....this Design Team spot has cost her more time and money than the sum of the free product she received.  What started out as her hobby has now become a full-time job with no pay other than a few products.

Now, it is not all doom and gloom.  A plus side is that, Loopy Loo gets exposure on the World Wide Web by the Company accrediting her work on their social media platforms.  But....that's not really a massive gift on their part, as it is Loopy Loo that basically did all the work for their socials....they are merely clicking the "save" or "send" button.  SO, yes, the exposure can be rewarding and her work is maybe reaching more people than if she wasn't on the team, but it isn't comparable to the massive amount of time, effort and money that it takes from her.  

As I discussed in my other post "Just because it's handmade, doesn't mean it's cheap", your time, talent and hard work has as much right to be appropriately compensated as that of any other professional, should it be a Plumber or a Doctor.  I don't know whether it's because predominantly, Crafter's are mostly women and that Crafting is almost seen as a wee daytime hobby that doesn't warrant paying, but I honestly feel that these Design Team Members should be paid and are entitled to be paid for the work they do, and not just payment in product.  It takes so long to come up with projects, design them, make them etc., and then to do all the other social media aspects on top of that.  It becomes a full time job for some of these Designers.  And I personally think that it is rather exploitative of a lot of these Craft Companies to expect so much from these Designers and give so little in return.  I understand we are in the world of Influencers now and if you don't take the Design Team position, there are 100 crafters lined up behind you that would jump at the chance.  But just like I wouldn't ask a plumber to fix my sink for free because I gave him the wrench to fix it, likewise I feel that Craft Companies should do much more to compensate their Designers monetarily, rather than just giving them products.

I realise that my above example might have been a little extreme and over the top.  But I honestly don't think its a great stretch from the truth.  I also acknowledge that this post might rub some people or companies up the wrong way.  I didn't actually mention any Company in particular...but there are many that I could have. However, the fault isn't just all on the Craft Companies either.  Any company would be mad not to take advantage of having work and exposure of their products being used simply by giving the artist some "free stuff".  No company is going to turn down what is essentially, free advertising, at the end of the day.  The Craft Company will happily take advantage of that because no one has stood up and said that it is wrong, isn't acceptable or morally iffy.  Crafters/Artists also have to take responsibility on their end too.   I think Crafter's have to realise that their time, work, effort and artistry is a valuable commodity to trade on.  Goodness knows, the Craft Companies are certainly trading on your artistry, so you are definitely entitled to get better recognition of that, than just some free products and a Facebook shout-out.  Without the Designers, these Craft Companies would not sell half of the products they make.  Design Team Members are an integral part when it comes to selling product....I'd say a massively integral and vital part in selling Craft products. But as Crafters/Artists, we have to acknowledge the value of our work and time and realise that it is not rude or inconsiderate to want that work to be properly compensated.  Unfortunately, one Crafter saying to a company that she/he would like to get paid for their time and work is not going to be enough to make a change in the Design Team paradigm.  The Craft Company will merely laugh and move on to the next person who is willing to do it for nothing.  If you are waiting for the status quo to change, hoping the Craft Companies will wake up one day and have a change of heart and want to pay it's Designers, well it'll be a cold day in hell for that to ever happen.  Change will happen when these wonderfully talented and creative women and men realise the value of their work and collectively decide to stand together and demand the remuneration that they so very much deserve.

I'm sure any Craft Company that thought they'd like me on their Design Team is now seriously backing away from my blog slowly, lol.  This is not to say that I will never be on a Design Team or will never do an honest review on a particular product that I've been sent.  And there are Crafter's who are more than happy to just get "free products" and don't want to be paid for their time and work as that in itself brings up other work, like being self-employed, paying taxes etc.  And that is ok too.  I wonder if there will ever be a solution to this or will the system carry on the way it is now?  Maybe a happy medium would be to have a tiered system, where Designers who don't want a full time wage as such, gets paid in product but the expectations and workload reflects that.  And then have a tier where the workload is greater, but the Designer gets fairly paid for the work they do.  That could possibly work for everyone involved.  I suppose, at the end of the day what I am saying is, if I like a product and I feel that the Company's expectations of my work doesn't cost me dearly, of course I will work with them.  But I also know the value of my work.  And I don't think I could ever be on a Design Team that ultimately cost me more in my time, products, artistry or monetary value. There needs to be balance in the arrangement.  I don't want to feel exploited by any Craft Company and I would like to be treated with the appropriate professional gratitude that is equal to the time and effort that I put in for them.  I don't ever want to work with a Company that expects full time work from me for little to no compensation from them.  I don't think it is fair that it costs Designers more in all these areas when the only one who is coming out on top are the Craft Companies.  I think it's an exploitative and shady practice.  Crafter's are Artist in their own right and deserve to be recognised as such. 

I hope I haven't offended anyone.  This is merely my own personal opinions and are not directed at any one Company or Design Team at all.  It is simply the thoughts that rattle around in my noggin that just so happen to spill onto this blog page.  Let me know what you think.  Do you think Design Team members deserve more compensation for all the work they do?  I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts too.

That's it from me for now folks.  Toodles Noodles......Lee aka Crafty Loops xx

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