There’s a lot of glamour associated with being in the digital marketing space. From planning and executing campaigns, to shooting videos and photos, prepping graphics and other materials for release. It really is exciting! But I believe there’s a deeper truth that needs to come out about working in this industry.
It’s no secret that creatives in the Caribbean struggle in the realm of proper compensation for the workload we take on and the value we provide. While the pandemic brought some amazing opportunities to creative professionals, it has also exposed us to more of the unfair realities of working in media and marketing.
But… What’s Really Expected of You?
Allow me to dive into some of the expectations that are placed on the creatives in my lovely region.
Bring Your Own Gear to the Party
You can look at your job as a “pay-to-play” experience. It’s generally expected that we’ll charge only for the service we’re rendering and not for the other resources that go into providing that service.
Of course, there’s “no budget” to hire a photographer, so you’ll be required to carry your personal camera to take some shots for the client's (or employer's) online catalogue. And why would you even need insurance for your equipment? Nothing is going to happen on set… in the hills… where there’s a permanent “Slippery When Wet Sign” and rain falls sporadically.
You Shouldn’t Have Much of a Personal Life
We’re expected to run overtime, on overdrive, and be available 24/7. Oh, and remember that every task that’s put on your plate is urgent. Get it done, now!
You Work for the Promise of Exposure & Experience… Not Sustenance
Never mind the fact that you’re also human and need to eat to stay alive. Who needs food, anyway? We also have rent to pay, bills, children to feed, student loan, and a whole host of other responsibilities. No matter the lifestyle you’ve chosen to live, money obviously should not be part of that equation.
Be a Jack-of-All-Trades, and a Master of Them All
As a social media manager, digital marketer or media producer you’re expected to know, and master many platforms and tools. Forget that there are only 24 hours in a day. Ignore your body when it tells you to eat and sleep (you may have to sacrifice one or both of these to make a living). Also, never mind the fact that you need to put time aside to take care of your mental health, and relax from time to time.
Add to all that notion that you’re expected to have two decade’s worth of experience right after leaving school. Crazy right? I graduated with my bachelor’s in 2013. When did Facebook, Twitter and Instagram start poppin’ again?
So How Do We Stack Up Against Our International Counterparts?
Compared to our international brethren, not only are we expected to take on far more work, but we’re also slapped in the face with far less pay. A quick look at a job description for any digital marketer out here will show you that you’re required to have an in-depth knowledge of all the major social media platforms, be proficient in writing copy, graphic design and video production, and also be able to deep dive into campaign analytics and pay-per-click advertising.
It may look like I detailed a full-blown marketing team, but in many companies across the Caribbean, all that responsibility is thrown on a single person.
We’ve Got No ‘M’s in Our Bank Accounts…
In terms of compensation, there’s a lot to improve. The reasoning behind this low pay, of course, is the “fact” that the Caribbean is a very small place (not really) with lower budgets and there aren’t enough funds to pay people properly. But how does that explain wasting millions of dollars on newspaper, television and radio ads that give you no way to track your results.
A general search on Payscale.com or Glassdoor.com for Digital Marketing Specialist or Social Media Manager will show an average annual salary of around US$50k per year in other larger countries. Do that same search for the Caribbean market and you’ll be lucky to see an average figure that’s even a quarter of that.
You Get Shafted Because You’re Young
While this period has brought with it some amazing opportunities, we still haven’t been able to avoid getting shafted by some of the powers that be.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told that the primary reason I’m being overlooked is that I’m young. Qualifications matter… but they also don’t. Years of experience, case studies and an extensive portfolio of work does matter, yes. But once they see you before them, the process of compensation is generally a mess after.
So, What Can We Do About All This?
It’s very easy to play the victim here, but who does that help? Not enough conversations are being had around the topic of fair pay for creative professionals. There also aren’t enough public discussions on how to stand your ground, handle financing or develop the legal framework to protect yourself as a professional. We don’t have an association. We don’t have a trade union. And while running through a pandemic as crippling as COVID has shown us that reaching the masses using social media and digital channels is of paramount importance, there’s still no true appreciation for what we do. This is where we start. This is where we stake our claim and finally become the open mouths that get fed. Are you ready to get your value’s worth?
About the Author
Brian Lawrence is a skilled digital marketer with a strong background in media production. He's passionate about helping young creatives do more fulfilling work. He's also an unapologetic superhero buff and lover of live music.
Reach out to him on:
Instagram - @askbrilawren
Twitter - @askbrilawren
LinkedIn - Brian Lawrence
Email - email@example.com