Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
This post is going to piss people off. This post is going to make you think. This post is going to, I hope, change the way you do business.
Are you ready?
Even if you’re not, I am going to write this because YOU need to hear it and you need to understand why we’re currently in a crisis, a digital integrity crisis.
As a journalist, ethics and integrity matter to me — even if I haven’t actually written or served (because it is a service) as a journalist for over 5 years.
Integrity is the quality of being honest. It means that the story behind the headline is just as important as the headline. It means the sources are true and there is no “fudging of figures or facts.” It means everyone working on the project was paid a fair wage, worked a fair amount of time, boundaries were respected and creativity flourished.
Because that’s the issue, right?
Creativity cannot flourish in an environment that is… for lack of a better word, shady.
Let’s think of creativity like beautiful, robust roses. They will die after a few days, but what if you preserved the integrity of their environment? If you gave them new water, protected their boundaries and made sure they weren’t near any fans or pets or too much sunlight, what do you think would happen?
I can tell you — they would last another week.
But if you just leave them, festering in the old water, in direct sunlight, on top of a heater? They’re dead in 5 days or less.
The beauty of roses is that you can choose, as their partner in beautification, if you want to protect and respect them or if you’re going to just take their beauty without giving anything back.
Creativity is the same thing.
Creative individuals need to do a variety of things to stay creative, especially as their businesses and responsibilities grow. Many creatives — think designers, artists and craftswomen — create their products BEFORE they even sell them! (This is why their commission-based work is better… or work they never intend to sell. #thinkaboutit)
To be a creative with a business mind, it means you’ve got to protect yourself. In an agency — which, truly, is what my company is, we are a one-stop-shop for all of your needs… and, as we close Q1, I do actually have a WE instead of the royal “we,” I have contractors and collaborators who believe and trust in ME — the account lead corresponded with clients.
Now, you, especially if you’re a solopreneur, girl boss, hustler, probably think this is weird.
Why would someone else to talk to the client FOR me when I am doing the work?
I wholeheartedly agreed with you… until I saw how nice it could be!
After years of being the client, working in-house, being the questioner, being the source, being the advocate, being the creator… I suddenly had an advocate protecting MY creative genius.
And boy did that baby flourish.
I fired off ideas like a machine gun, loved every project I touched, learned how to be a better advocate for MYSELF when it came to my side-hustles and, finally? Finally, I learned the skills I needed to use to launch my own business TWO MONTHS after deciding that was something I wanted to pursue.
Once I launched the business, I learned to literally separate my brain… my best tip? Separate email inboxes!! (More on this in another blog).
I separated my brain and then a good friend of mine, also, a millennial entrepreneur, said this:
Your business isn’t you. It’s someone else. It’s someone YOU answer to.
And as I laid on that waxing table (because yes, she’s my waxer), I realized what a freakin’ genius she was?!
That was the day the seed for THIS blog was born.
At the end of the day, in order to flourish, creativity must be respected and protected.
In a digital business world, too many people expect work for free, refuse to honor boundaries and try to convince you all will be well if you just do XYZ on their terms.
Even someone like me, of the highest integrity, with ethics in her core and a very, very, VERY strong sense of self, is susceptible.
But, what about those of us who are not fierce?
What about the mommas, undergrads and struggling artists? What about the people who create for the pure joy of creating?
It is OUR job, those of us with a fierce, strong, fearless voice, to stand up and say “NOT TODAY.” Pay your people well, pay yourself well; fight to determine YOUR worth, on YOUR terms.
This isn’t a problem isolated to the internet but it IS a problem that has resulted from the nature of the internet and it being the way brands, individuals and companies do business and, interact with businesses.
It is a problem of digital integrity.
The golden rules still apply — be who you are, be true to your voice, honor agreements, honor the talent that is shared with you, respect boundaries and understand that if someone is doing you a favor, it must be really and truly cherished.
And at the end of the day?