Don't Quit Your Day Job: Creativity Is About Passion, Not Paychecks
from the doing-it-because-you-want-to,-not-because-you-have-to dept
There are many who argue, despite historical and ongoing evidence to the contrary, that creativity will die out if creators cannot be guaranteed some sort of livable wage. It’s almost as if any creator who creates as a hobby or potential second job either a) is being shortchanged by disruption, piracy, etc., or b) shouldn’t be taken seriously because they haven’t abandoned their day job.
It’s an odd assertion. Most groundbreaking creative efforts were conceived and carried out while the creators worked in a variety of other non-creative jobs. It was only after these breakthroughs that these artists went on to live solely on the earnings of their creative works. Somehow, we’re now expected to believe that without piracy and other disruptions, creators would be making better, livable wages, possibly right out of the gate.
That whole thought process ignores the reality. Not having a paycheck tied to your creative endeavors means being able to fail more often and experiment more freely, without having to worry about hurting your current source of income. Case in point: three developers who solved a problem most companies didn’t know they had, all without having to “give up the day job.”
For the past two years, Brandon Medenwald, Justin Kalvoda, and Bill Burgess have held down full-time jobs while also launching their company, Simply Made Apps.
Their only product is an app called Simple In/Out, which solves a problem that drove Brandon crazy. He explains, “In my fulltime job as a web programmer, we had an old magnetic in/out board like they use in sales offices to keep track of who is in the office and who isn’t. Five or six years ago, they transitioned to a Web-based version.
“I was constantly frustrated with it, because some of the roughly 40 people in our firm wouldn’t use it. The board became extremely out of date. For years, I was joking that I could write a better piece of software in a weekend, but then over beers in a bar with two friends, it dawned on me we could solve this problem by using the GPS chips in cell phones.”
On it’s face, it seems terribly simple: build something better. And yet, no one had really tackled it before. So they took a weekend off to knock out the framework early last year and since then have been refining it based on customer feedback.
For the first four months, the app was free. Last September, they introduced pricing that was based on the number of people being tracked on the company’s board. Prices start at $5 per month for 4 to 10 users, and gradually step up to $160 a month for 250 to 1,000 users.
Although the trio are far better programmers than they are marketers, today they have over 1,600 registered companies. More importantly, they have something they love so much that they occasionally use their vacations to devote extra time to their “nights and weekends” startup.
None of them hate their real jobs. None are eager to quit. They come across as smart, patient people who want to solve interesting problems that other companies aren’t solving.
Creativity very often springs from those tied to day jobs. These three don’t sound even remotely “tied.” It’s not about sustaining yourself from a nights-and-weekend project. It’s about being passionate about what you do with your nights and weekends. These days, anyone with a spark of creativity has hundreds of free-to-cheap tools at their disposal. The barriers to entry have been demolished, whether it’s music, movies or software. It’s not money that drives these creators: it’s passion. And if you ignore that fact, and cling to past business models, you’re going to find yourself trailing the pack very quickly.
“In a big corporation,” says Brandon, “I’d be fearful of the little people out there doing something that they are passionate about, because, passion trumps money.” He and his partners love what they do, and feel fortunate to be able to solve interesting problems.
Even though the company is turning a modest profit, he says, “Because we love what we do, we don’t have to be concerned about turning a profit, which means we are extremely dangerous people when it comes to our dedication to improving services
The three were able to get this off the ground using spare time and around $100 each, which covered “licenses, a Web domain, a ‘doing business as’ name, etc.” From $300 and a few nights and weekends to 1,600 paid users, all without having to “quit the day job.”
Those arguing that creativity is tied to a steady paycheck are relics looking back fondly at the days of gatekeeping, when competition was low because the barriers were too high. It has nothing to do with wanting future artists to be properly “protected” against disruption and everything to do with keeping more people out. That sounds more than a little like fear.