A friend of mine once used the expression ‘working for cool points’. As in, ‘I’m not working for cool points anymore’. And it really stuck with me. She was flipping the bird to being underpaid in the creative industries. It was a kick-in-the-guts revelation!

We enter the creative industries filled with excitement and optimism. We don’t go in there expecting to work hours that are equivalent to unpaid overtime. We feel like we are the CHOSEN ONES!

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was working for ‘cool points’. I was operating in an environment that actively embraced ‘scope creep’ (more on scoop creep soon) as unofficial company policy.

I had allowed myself to believe that it was ok to be underpaid because I was working in an exciting industry where I got free cds (remember those?), concert tickets and the odd free dinner. These supplementary benefits, although much appreciated, weren’t exactly helping to cover my rent.

Frankly, I was flogging myself senseless. And the financial rewards did not stack up. I wanted to keep my job but most importantly, I didn’t want anyone else to have it! And so the self-worth, inner tussle began.

Being underpaid can affect more than just your bank balance. It can affect your self-worth. And this can affect your performance.

Feeling undervalued can lead to resentment and resentment, as we know, can lead to burnout.

Creative industries are self-regulated. There’s no real ‘award’ for what any of us do. We do it for the love (and maybe a bit of reflected glory) and because we don’t want to think about the alternative workplace scenario.

So it is often left to us as individuals to make the decision as to our self-worth in relation to money. And that can be a fraught process due to entrenched mindsets around money and issues with self-esteem, people pleasing and over delivering. In the creative industries, this is often reinforced by the starving artist cliché that many of us have bought into over the years. We often feel lucky to be in these creative roles and grateful to receive any money for our offerings. But what if we reframed that to consider the unique value that we are providing to the creative industries instead of what the creative industries are giving us?

 Self-worth is intrinsic (meaning it comes from within) so, the bottom line is, only you can determine and influence your self-worth.

If you’re constantly working for a low financial return and anger and resentment is creeping in, that’s usually a pretty strong sign that there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed. It’s good practice to set clear and healthy boundaries around what you will, and won’t, do for cool points.


  • Be clear about the value you provide to your workplace or clients. What do you offer that is unique? How much time are you saving your company or clients?
  • If you’re a freelancer or underpaid artist how happy are your clients after working with you? What feedback have you received?
  • If you’re working as a freelancer, figure out how much money it will take to make the job worth your while.
  • Once you’re clear on the above it’s time to have the conversation about money.
  • Learn the fine art of negotiating but make sure you’ve done your homework beforehand. What should you be getting paid? What are your peers or others doing similar work being paid? Are there people in your field who earn significantly more than you do? If so, what do they do that is different?
  • Negotiation won’t always work in your favour out but it’s a great life skill regardless of your profession. And taking the step to towards this conversation will have a positive impact on your self-worth.
  • If there’s no flexibility on the dollars and you still want the gig, can you live with the money being offered and adjust your hours accordingly?
  • Internally focus on your strengths instead of highlighting your perceived weaknesses. We’re great at ignoring our strengths!
  • Think about how you’re working. Have you gotten into a habit of over-delivering? If so, why?
  • Are you being asked to work back or are you doing so because you’re over-delivering?
  • If so, work on setting clear boundaries and stick to them.
  • If you’re sick, be sick (at home)
  • Take your holidays (you’re entitled to them) or if you work for yourself, make sure holiday time is factored into your year.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent’

If you feel you’re worth more in your work life, it’s usually because you are.

Thanks for reading,

Coach Viv XO


We’re at the half-way mark of 2017! If you’d like to check in with where you’re at, sign up to for a free copy of Your Mid-Year Reality Check.


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