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Tips for the Creative Workforce from BAO Director Emma Leavitt

By Emma Leavitt for Boston Compass (#126)

August 13, 2020

Hello to my dear art-worker family, culture-producers, dreamers, planners, storytellers, and community-builders. Our society is not set up to understand the immense value that we bring to this world. And that is why I’m coming at you with a few tips on how to advocate for yourself and your work in this day and age.

  1. What’s your hourly rate? Get informed! Track your hours. Research what creative workers get paid by googling “BLS Wage Data.” I guarantee that most people asking for creative labor do not know these stats. When you inform them, you are helping yourself and artists everywhere.

  2. Who’s asking? Recognize that there is a difference between community collaborators and well-funded clients. DO NOT give out ideas, insight, or connections for free to businesses, orgs, or institutions that can afford to pay you. Research whoever is asking you for labor and find out what their annual budget is.

  3. Don’t accept payoffs! Especially for our BIPOC fam, it is all the rage now for companies to appear woke by collaborating with diverse artists. Refer to point #2, and consider that a request for your collaboration could be used to leverage a more meaningful commitment to the BIPOC community. Play the long game, and realize that your response to these offers is absolutely an opportunity to support the movement.

All of these conversations can be handled firmly and respectfully. Brain Arts is happy to consult for free to any creative who needs advice on how to maneuver around these situations. Use your brain! We are here to help—reach out to or DM us at @brain_arts_org on Instagram or Twitter.

—Emma Leavitt, BAO Director

Check out all the art and columns of August's Boston Compass at


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