Every day on my way home I drive by a sign that says, "Despite the high cost of living, it's still popular."
I always want to throw something at and/or through it. Like, fuck off, pithy sign, because there's living and then there's living, y'know? I don't consider myself overpaid at all - I haven't had a raise in 2 years, my job doesn't come with insurance benefits or any other perks - and I am still living paycheck to paycheck. Our house is small and falling apart, our car is making strange and expensive-sounding noises. Yes, I only work 4 days a week, but if I worked five I would have to pay for more daycare, so I wouldn't really be that much further ahead.
(Also, I would develop a facial tic and a drug problem fairly quickly, but that's a whole other thing.)
I know that I am lucky that we're fed and clothed and can occasionally afford to go out to a movie. But today, I had an interview for a job - essentially, MY job, except in a different location and with hopefully less yelling - that, at the top of it's pay range, pays twenty percent less than my current mediocre salary. At the TOP of the pay range. As in, that is the most you could ever hope to make at that job, ever.
I actually went to university with the interviewer (cringe), and I must not have hidden my reaction to his salary statement very well, because he was a little apologetic. It's a tough market in the creative field right now, he said. People are taking huge pay cuts just to keep their jobs. You're actually the only person who applied for this position who wasn't, um, "under-employed".
All of those things are true, and all of those things suck great big hairy donkey balls. You know who I blame?
I'm rather conflicted about it, as you can imagine. I mean, I heart the interwebs. Sites like ODesk and 99Designs and CrowdSpring are fantastic. You can work from home, you can build your portfolio. But it devalues the work that graphic designers, web designers, and writers do. Why would a company pay a design firm thousands of dollars for a logo or brand, when they can run a contest and have talented graphic artists falling all over themselves trying to win a couple hundred bucks? Why would someone hire a writer if they can find one who will email them articles for literally pennies? Sure, you'll build your portfolio up; and then they'll move on to the next person that's willing to work for peanuts.
And I don't really know, as writers or artists or web designers, where we should draw the line. I mean, it is a tough economy, we do need to make money. But my first blog makeover - which was AWESOME and took the better part of a week - cost me literally fifty bucks. I felt like a criminal paying that little, but at the same time, I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on something that is essentially a hobby. Most of us blog or post our web comics with no expectation of being paid. We do it for a sense of community, to hone our crafts, to shout into the void. We gift our talents to the world because it makes us feel good.
I've done illustrations for people who are friends, or when I traded fairly, or both. I did a super-librarian and a digital librarian drawing for Michele, in exchange for a gorgeous painting of hers. Sometimes bloggers send gifts showcasing their talents, just because they can. I don't consider that the same thing, though. I consider that just a natural outcome of being part of a community.
So I don't know what the answer is. I think that under-valueing artistic endeavours behind the guise of a "tough economy" is bunk. I think that selling yourself short because you believe someone else will do a better job for less is ridiculous. I think that the free accessibility to peoples talents that the internet affords, will continue to devalue those talents, unless people start holding out for what they're truly worth.
Though that might mean that a lot of people start getting paid to blog.
Now that would be living.