Transparent is a word that's come up often since I first began freelancing a few years ago, and more recently since going off on my own to launch Clementine. It's fascinating to see how being transparent (or not) can transform a person, brand or industry. Having had to teach myself the tricks of freelancing without any real mentors and launch my business in a saturated market, I am a huge advocate for being transparent. There are several people and brands I've looked up to recently who not only value transparency, but make a point of having it at the forefront of their business. Below are three areas where I've found transparency to have a great impact, or lack there of:
INDUSTRY PRICING AND RESOURCE SHARING
When just starting out as a freelance illustrator, I couldn't find clear-cut pricing guidelines from any resource or person in the industry. Sure there are tons of resources online and blogs that argue when and when not to work for free, and there were certainly hundreds of opinions and judgements about people who charge too little or too much, but nowhere could anyone tell me how to figure out where you fall on the spectrum, or what the pricing spectrum even was. I was taken aback by how I couldn't find a guideline or a range of pricing people were working in (in my specific field and market in NY), or even what they started out working at for reference. I learned that it's all trial and error until you find what's comfortable for you. And while that's good practice, there's a difference between being transparent and giving away all of your secrets. People are afraid of the latter, which is understandable, but being transparent in your business only helps the greater good of your industry. Not only does it even the playing field, it creates an open conversation and allows for your competitors to be your friends without secretly wondering what their secrets are. I operate under the belief that there's enough work to go around. We all have our own styles, our own niche markets, our own passions that differentiate us from the next person, and while there are copycats to be wary of, they never win out in the end. Staying true to your vision and talent will always guarantee that you'll rise above the rest. So as long as we're all staying true to ourselves, why can't we share?
Breanna Rose does just that. Her popular series "Be Free, Lance" gives honest tips in all areas freelance: from getting clients, to streamlining your process. It's been such a success that Bre and fellow graphic designer Jen Serafini have built an online workshop of the same name, for "creatives who want to tackle freelancing in some way, shape or form". Launching this Winter, I can't wait to see more from them.
HAND-MADE AND ETHICALLY PRODUCED PRODUCTS
Everlane is a clear example of transparency as their business model is built on it. They pride themselves on showing how their garments are made throughout every step of the process. The first thing you see on their About page is: "Radical Transparency. Know your factories. Know your costs. Always ask why". Their hashtag #KnowYourFactories highlights each of their factories used around the world and the story behind it. Everlane has changed the way people think about their clothing the same way eating local/organic has changed the way we eat. We want to know where our "stuff" comes from and be assured that it's not only well-made with products we trust, but that it's also produced ethically.
"Radical Transparency" also supports the businesses that are built on hand-made, thoughtfully created items. Which is why we see Instagram accounts like Ariele Alasko, Marianne Moodie, Elizabeth Suzann and Hackwith Design House, just to name a few, that have hundreds of thousands of followers and buyers at the ready eager to see what these creators turn out. These makers are transparent in their process, they show the yarn they use (even the farm they get it from), the old barn where they sourced the wood that made the spoon you just bought, the process your beautiful bowl went through from raw clay to finished product. It gives your stuff a history you can be proud of, encourages thoughtful creation and gives you an education.
By now we've all read the articles and experienced first-hand the backwards effect over-indulging in your Instagram feed can give you. We get caught up in our friends' world-travel vacations that we can't afford to take, an artist you'll never be as good at, Pinterest meals you'll never be able to cook just right, the list is endless. I'm a devout Instagrammer, it's one of the best business tools I've ever used, not to mention it's free, beautiful to look at, and forces a new creativity. That being said, it's important to remind ourselves that nobody wants to look at an ugly photo of trash that's been neglected in the kitchen, or a day spent watching tv on your couch, which is why people post the pretty things in their lives. Kelli Ryder in the new issue of Rue sheds light on this topic and is refreshingly transparent about the balance of guilt she feels when being accused of having a "perfect" life, while also wanting to photograph beautiful things and share them with her audience.
We shouldn't have to give up posting beautiful content for fear of appearing too perfect, posed, groomed or organized. Like Kelli, we all just need to be more transparent about it. A perfect photo doesn't equal a perfect life. Understanding that and appreciating someone's feed for the beauty they post and being able to separate the person from their photos is key.
Other people to follow who are taking a lead in being transparent:
- Kate of Wit and Delight, who's been adament about reducing the stigma of mental illness and who has openly shared her own struggles with anxiety and depression
- Loren Crosier, whose new blog series "Quiet Quality" is a refreshing reminder of mindful living.
- Jess Lively, whose motto is to "live with intention" and her popular weekly podcasts feature professionals who are transparent about their careers, goals and work/life balance.
- The Citizenry, a gorgeous brand selling home decor items from around the world with a focus on sustainable relationships, design with purpose, and transparency in process.