Creative Freelancers: Money Matters

Can people make a living in creative careers? This past week, I had a conversation about this topic – choosing a career in the creative sector versus choosing a mainstream career in order to achieve or maintain ‘financial security.’

Naturally I am biased towards the notion that yes, you can make a living as a creative person. I think that money although important is besides the point. I think its equally important to express individuality and use our imagination in the work we do. The point is pursuing dreams and living a life of passion and purpose without the fear of becoming a ‘ starving artist’.

If you could do anything for 8 hours a day for the rest of your life, and money were no object, what would you do?

On 31 May, 2014 I had the opportunity to attend Conversations on Creativity 08, a forum curated by a non profit organisation called Creative Nestlings . Conversations on Creativity brings together people and organisations in the creative sector to discuss different topics that affect them. The topic on this particular day was about freelancing or going at it on your own in a creative career.

The speakers line-up was flawless bringing together individuals from diverse sectors within the creative industry. It was a fun afternoon of stimulating conversation about careers in the creative industry, building businesses and freelancing.

Exhibit A. The Graphic Designer:
Daniel Ting Chong



Daniel is a freelance illustrator, designer and artist based in Cape Town, South Africa. His portfolio includes design collaborations with various international brands like Nike and The New York Times.

What I took from this conversation:

Freelancing is not easy but it can be done. Its important to take the business side of things seriously as well – negotiate payment terms for jobs, sign contracts…read the fine-print. I was inspired by Daniel’s admission that his best creations are those he does for himself. Daniel loves what he does and he is definitely emerging as one of Cape Town’s top creative talents.

Exhibit B. The Fashion Designer
Celeste Arendse



Celeste is a fashion design graduate, an Elle New Talent finalist and now a seasoned fashion designer with her own clothing brand. The brand name is uber-cool – ‘Selfi’. Celeste came up with this name before ‘selfies’ went viral! Her brand is inspired by architecture, forms and patterns in nature. Her designs are amazing and I will definitely keep a look out for Selfi clothes when I walk about town.

What I took from this conversation:

Celeste described her clothing line as a global brand. I liked that description. It abandoned confining boundaries of geography and influence. Global is good. What stood out most for me in this conversation was also the fact that when we have a dream, as it starts happening its important to keep our eyes on the goal and the purpose we are pursuing. Essentially, what starts out as a vision in our heads, ultimately comes to be and automatically comes under the judgemental eye of those who perceive it. It is so easy to be swayed or discouraged by what the world around you says about YOUR vision. So as Celeste put it, its YOUR vision. Give that gift to the world untainted without doubts or backtracks.

Exhibit C. The Visual Artist
Dathini Mzayiya



Dathini Mzayiya is an artist who uses visual narratives for social commentary on post apartheid society. He uses oil paints, charcoal and newspapers to produce amazing works of art. He is also a founding member of various art institutions, networks and collectives.

What I took from this conversation:

What I loved about Dathini is his calm and thoughtful nature. You can feel the wisdom that he potrays through his works of art. One thing that stood out for me was his artistic integrity. This is a common thread that runs through the tapestry of creative careers. A struggle between producing work that is inspired by the stories he wants to tell and producing work that is ‘sellable.’ Should the artist be driven by inspiration or by what the galleries and markets want? Dathini maintains that inspiration is key. I guess this goes for any career or anything. Being driven by external motives is frivolous and at best, frustrating. Reminds me of this quote by Chinua Achebe – ‘one of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.’

Exhibit D. The Artist/DJ
Jess Cross



Jess Cross is an artist and dj based between Cape Town and San Francisco. She is a philosophy graduate and founded a non profit organisation called Soul City Movement. This movement is a collection of artists that use art as a tool for creative self-expression and mentorship. The movement works with young children using art and photography for cross cultural dialogues and personal leadership development.

What I took from this conversation:

Where there is a will there is a way. Jess is the quintessential example of what happens when passion meets purpose. Magic happens! Her talk was inspiring and real. Her message was do what you believe your purpose is and the rest will follow. Her work is changing many children’s lives and in the process she gets to live out her purpose and mentor others. She has managed to combine all her passions into inspiring initiative.



You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” – Maya Angelou


2 comments on “Creative Freelancers: Money Matters

  1. Myrna Moreno
    June 16, 2014

    I love the conversations about the creative freelancers versus money. I believe that all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
    Myrna Moreno


  2. Sifiso Maposa
    June 16, 2014

    Thanks for reading and leaving a comment Myrna. Well said. I believe that too. Courage makes the difference 🙂


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This entry was posted on June 2, 2014 by in Random Musings.
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