fbpx

Such a sell out: Deciding how many commercial jobs is too much

Being described as a “sell out” rarely feels like a compliment. “Selling out” refers to a betrayal of one’s principles for reasons of expediency or commercialism. 

A great example of a creative who is celebrated for their art while also acknowledged for their “sell out” status is Salvador Dali. He designed the logo for lollipop brand Chupa Chups. He created the publicity material and stage for the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest. He starred in ads for everything from chocolates and chewing gum to airlines and Alka Seltzer. He even once sold a blade of grass to Yoko Ono for $10,000. While his artistic reputation amongst his contemporaries took a bit of a hit, his estate was worth close to $90 million the day he died. One could say that, in many ways, being a sell out artist paid off. 

Music artists often bare the brunt of being labelled a “sell out artist” when they decide to move away from making music of a niche genre to churning out pop commercial tunes – take Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift who were heavily criticized for moving away from their country roots in the early stages of their careers. Or even for creating content outside of music (remember when Iggy Pop appeared in commercials for car insurance?). 

For a creative freelancer living in 2022, however, the taboo surrounding “sell outs” takes on a whole different tone. In the age of influencers, sponsored content and paid posts we’re all encouraged to monetize our hobbies and turn our side hustles into businesses.  

Working with a big-name brand is no longer a deal with the devil, no longer anything to be ashamed of. More importantly, modern creatives are able to and passionate about pushing authentic artistry to the forefront of a more commercial deal or collaboration. 

This shift for millennial and Gen Z creatives comes from a place of necessity. Student debts need to be paid off and while nobody pays for artistic content (hello Spotify, Google Images and fast fashion), the cost of living still rises and creatives need to keep up. 

Naturally, this is not to say that every freelancer in the modern world is happy to take on any work as long as it pays well. Quite the contrary, in fact. Many freelancers often question how much commercial work they take on in the hopes of keeping their portfolios niche and diversified while still paying the bills. 

Freelancers of today simply are having to ask themselves where their priorities lie. They need to know how they want to market themselves, and how they want to make money.

London-based ethical creative agency, Nice and Serious have even created a web-based app to help freelancers make decisions when walking the tightrope between taking on commercial and artistic work. Founded by friends Tom Tapper and Ben Meaker, the app filters all potential briefs through their moral compass, it means their team gets to vote on what they work on. They are proof that you can make a living doing work you believe in. 

“We used to say ‘would you feel embarrassed telling your friends down the pub that you were working with this brand?,” says creative director Tom. “Because we didn’t sell out in those early days, and remained focused on doing cause-related work, we ended up having a really pointed portfolio that spoke volumes about what we stood for as an agency.”

Another interesting side of the “sell out” pyramid is the topic of decentralization, currently booming in the web3 and art NFT spaces. In a commercial world, making a living often means being at the mercy of a boss, a client or a brief. So if selling out – in whichever form that takes – means you can pay your rent, maintain a good quality of life and continue to make work you really believe in, it’s a decision worth taking seriously.

Being described as a “sell out” rarely feels like a compliment. “Selling out” refers to a betrayal of one’s principles for reasons of expediency or commercialism. 

A great example of a creative who is celebrated for their art while also acknowledged for their “sell out” status is Salvador Dali. He designed the logo for lollipop brand Chupa Chups. He created the publicity material and stage for the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest. He starred in ads for everything from chocolates and chewing gum to airlines and Alka Seltzer. He even once sold a blade of grass to Yoko Ono for $10,000. While his artistic reputation amongst his contemporaries took a bit of a hit, his estate was worth close to $90 million the day he died. One could say that, in many ways, being a sell out artist paid off. 

Music artists often bare the brunt of being labelled a “sell out artist” when they decide to move away from making music of a niche genre to churning out pop commercial tunes – take Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift who were heavily criticized for moving away from their country roots in the early stages of their careers. Or even for creating content outside of music (remember when Iggy Pop appeared in commercials for car insurance?). 

For a creative freelancer living in 2022, however, the taboo surrounding “sell outs” takes on a whole different tone. In the age of influencers, sponsored content and paid posts we’re all encouraged to monetize our hobbies and turn our side hustles into businesses.  

Working with a big-name brand is no longer a deal with the devil, no longer anything to be ashamed of. More importantly, modern creatives are able to and passionate about pushing authentic artistry to the forefront of a more commercial deal or collaboration. 

This shift for millennial and Gen Z creatives comes from a place of necessity. Student debts need to be paid off and while nobody pays for artistic content (hello Spotify, Google Images and fast fashion), the cost of living still rises and creatives need to keep up. 

Naturally, this is not to say that every freelancer in the modern world is happy to take on any work as long as it pays well. Quite the contrary, in fact. Many freelancers often question how much commercial work they take on in the hopes of keeping their portfolios niche and diversified while still paying the bills. 

Freelancers of today simply are having to ask themselves where their priorities lie. They need to know how they want to market themselves, and how they want to make money.

London-based ethical creative agency, Nice and Serious have even created a web-based app to help freelancers make decisions when walking the tightrope between taking on commercial and artistic work. Founded by friends Tom Tapper and Ben Meaker, the app filters all potential briefs through their moral compass, it means their team gets to vote on what they work on. They are proof that you can make a living doing work you believe in. 

“We used to say ‘would you feel embarrassed telling your friends down the pub that you were working with this brand?,” says creative director Tom. “Because we didn’t sell out in those early days, and remained focused on doing cause-related work, we ended up having a really pointed portfolio that spoke volumes about what we stood for as an agency.”

Another interesting side of the “sell out” pyramid is the topic of decentralization, currently booming in the web3 and art NFT spaces. In a commercial world, making a living often means being at the mercy of a boss, a client or a brief. So if selling out – in whichever form that takes – means you can pay your rent, maintain a good quality of life and continue to make work you really believe in, it’s a decision worth taking seriously.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous Article

How to create a catchy tagline for your brand

Next Article

Gmail Tricks Everyone Needs to Know

Related Posts
Read More

Asana vs Monday | Expert Review | Freelancer Review

As creative freelancers with busy minds and even busier schedules we all know how a great project management tool can be a lifesaver. If you haven’t yet jumped on the project management tool software wagon then get ready for your mind to be blown.