Being a Creative Independent (2/4): What it Means

I’d like to make an observational comparison. If you know me you know that most of my time is actually taken up by serving coffee/tea/food. It’s my day job and I enjoy it. It’s what keeps me afloat financially and I like to think I’m good at it.

What this also means is that I like to visit other places that do the same thing, or rather I like to visit the people. This comparison is between Independent Creatives and Independent cafes. There’s been an ever increasing amount of them pop up over past years and they are something I’m quite fond of.

When I visit an independent cafe the one thing I like to see is the owner behind the counter. The owner working hard and setting an example to their staff or to their customers. The reason I like to see this is that I like to see the passion behind the product. Even if they’re not the best at what they’re doing, I like to see them trying, learning and improving at their skill with each visit I make.

What ultimately puts me off is when I don’t see or stop seeing the owner. Now this can be for a couple of reasons which are completely understandable. 1) There’s too much work that needs to be done behind the scenes in order for the shop to run and to support their staff or 2) They’ve discovered new ways to make even more money and leave the shop to it’s own devices to go and start making more money rather than delivering their product.

The latter although still independent, I start to drift away from. Despite however many hipsters they’ve got working behind the counter, the latter I see as business. I completely understand that opening and running a cafe is a business, and that you have to be business minded in order to open and run it effectively; however I’d like to imagine that in an ideal world can’t someone open a cafe and be content with the success which allows them to meet financial needs at home rather than constantly search for the next money making venture in order to make even more of a profit?

It’s also extremely rare to find staff as passionate about the product as the owner. The staff may appear to be and act as if they are but at the end of the day they are there to get paid.

I’ve diverged from the point a little here I understand, but being an independent creative is about using your own passion and skills to set an example and to show to those around you. We each have a skill set and being independent is about using this to the best of your abilities and showing others what we have and what we can do or what we want to say; not by using other people to get the job done, and not by looking to be like other standard models (ie. what’s ‘hip’ at the time). We’ve all seen it. The producer that just makes dubstep, the producer that just makes hip hop, the producer that just makes drum and bass, or just makes IDM (the list goes one). There’s nothing wrong with these producers if they have their own sound and take on the genre, but many of them don’t. They’ve affixed themselves to a genre and bound themselves to a set of rules that are rarely broken. They aren’t unique (enough) to warrant being listened too, their abilities are respected, but their personality isn’t heard. Perhaps their aspirations are met but it’s still not who they are. Many people can make genre specific music by abiding to set of rules just as many people can make coffee by abiding to a set of rules, but what sets them apart?

When you walk into a cafe and see the owner their product is their living. There’s an element of care you don’t see from the other workers. If you find that element of care in the other staff members then the owner has been lucky enough to hit a gold mine; but this occurrence happens rarely. Many people apply for a job as a means to make money and that’s it. Of course they want to be happy doing what they’re doing, but as long as they’re getting paid they’re happy and content; it’s down to the owner to pay them right? When it’s the owner behind the counter you see a different mindset in action. This is their living and they could be a deep trouble if they don’t meet the standards set by themselves. That mindset transfers into their product and what they put down in front of you. You don’t see this in those who have succumbed to the love of money until they witness the dissatisfaction on the customers face for themselves (which once they’ve hit the big time they rarely do).

Being independent is about being your own voice, representing yourself and finding a way to be heard in a world where there are plenty of other people being good at what you’re trying to do also. What makes a good independent is the individuality and differences which come from your own personality, not trying to copy something from pinterest or instagram. Being different is when you don’t follow a trend. You simply be. Be independent.

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