Today the staff of the University of Technology in Sydney were striking to demand greater job security.
For a supposedly forward thinking institution, job security strikes me as an nostalgic concept to ‘demand’.
In the modern gig economy secure jobs as we used to know them are a thing of the past. Our forefathers may have expected to spend the entire span of their careers at one organisation, their loyalty being rewarded with a gold watch at retirement; but as well all know…things have changed.
Travel agents and supermarket cashiers have seen their jobs disappear completely in the past few years while new roles such as Uber driver, social media manager and app developer have sprung up in the meantime.
As jobs demand more of their people and people demand more of their jobs, there is a lot more movement and transition our modern professional lives. It seems to me that two of the only areas where you can still serve your entire career on the same path are the military and public service. I suspect this is why educators like those at UTS are clinging to their idea of job security for as long as they can.
Of course security and reassurance are deep needs we all share, but I think artists and creatives are born with or develop a higher tolerance for risk than the average person. Artistic endeavours are not generally known for their security and stability. No-one’s parents suggest they study comedy as a backup plan “in case engineering doesn’t work out.”
Having said that, a lot of artists look to gain employment in the industry. Their goal is to be chosen (hired) for a salaried job. This could take one of many forms, as the principal flautist in an orchestra, a series regular on a tv show or assistant musical director on a musical. A job like that feels like it provides security. It comes with the stability of a regular paycheck. For a time.
Like many industries, artists are often employed on a contract basis. For a season, be it a week, a number of years, or somewhere in between. While paychecks are nothing to be sneezed at, when the contract ends…so do the cheques. It turns out that a regular paying job is more about temporary stability than long term security.
Long term security comes from something that will last. An asset that maintains or ideally increases in value. It’s why many people invest in buying their own home.
When you focus your career on working for someone else, you’re spending your talent to build an asset in which you have no ongoing ownership. You’re building someone else’s show, product or company – an asset that will increase in value for them long after they stop paying you.
You may be thinking “I’m investing in my career. I’m developing my skill set and experience. That’s an asset.” This is true, but in this mindset it’s an asset that’s only worth what you can negotiate to be paid on the next gig.
Making and producing your own work can be a daunting task, but it provides you the opportunity to create assets that you own.
As an artist who makes their own work you can write songs, make films and develop characters. In endless ways you can create something bold, beautiful, humorous or haunting where there once was nothing. Developing art that you have ownership of (or an ownership stake in) is an asset that can increase in value with time.
Many artists overlook the opportunity to build the most valuable asset, their audience.
Cultivating a group of people who appreciate and support you and your art is incredibly valuable. Your audience become the patrons of your creativity. Instead of slaving away for an employer, you find yourself with freedom.
Freedom to imagine and build the art that best represents who you are for an audience who wants to pay you what you’re worth. Investing in an ongoing relationship with your audience could be the most significant factor in having a successful and sustainable career as an artist.
Imagine a loyal audience of fans who support you to do the work that challenges, inspires and satisfies you as an artist. Consider how that as that audience grows, so does the impact you can make with your work. How would it feel to know that there is a core tribe of supporters who love what you do and can’t wait to buy a ticket to your next performance, stream your next video and champion your work to others?
That sounds like job security to me.
Audience By Design is a course I have developed for artists and creatives who want to build that sort of audience. Subscribe using the form below to find out more and be notified when applications open.