This question is one that most would rather ignore. However, it's SO important. Let's NOT sweep this one under the rug for another day. Let's discuss the tough question. 

Is it ethical to outsource creative parts of a creative buisness?

Before I start, it's worth discussing that my livelihood depends on photographers outsourcing their editing to me. In other words, I have a major bias! And further, this post isn't fact, it's just my opinion. More than anything I'ld like to share my views and get the discussion going! 

So, let's dive in. 

There are TONS of reasons why outsourcing can benefit creative business owners. It frees up their time to market, pay bills, spend more time on their clients, have free space to do more creating, or, dare I say, relax with family and friends! It would take up another entire blog post to describe all the ways outsourcing can benefit creative businesses. Instead, let's just agree that it does and come back to that separately!

Here's the problem though. You can only outsource so much before you start hitting parts of the creative process. If we need or want more time, then at some point we have to start questioning whether or not we can outsource parts of the actual creating.    

This is difficult for a lot of reasons. Once you start letting others interfere with the creation, it feels like there's a significant loss of control, ownership, quality, etc. Worst of all, it might feel like you are deceiving your clients who are looking to purchase a product or experience that is uniquely yours. 

To me, the question really becomes, at what point does creative outsourcing interfere with an artist's decisions and control over the final product. At what point do they lose the ability to call the creation their own?

Let's do a scenario.

Picture two painters. One painter is holding a brush, making the brush strokes. One painter is standing back, dictating where every stroke is made and with what color. Here's the question. Who do you think the painting belongs to? For me, it's clearly the one who is dictating what the painting looks like and who is making the creative decisions... oddly enough, in this scenario, it's not the one making the actual strokes on the canvas!

I'll be honest, this scenario isn't perfect! For one, no one is saving time at this stage! Secondly, there is still freedom that the second painter has in how they complete their brush strokes. Here's the thing though. Over time, don't you think the real painter, the one in creative control, could teach the exact way they would like the brush strokes executed? 

Food for thought.


Here are the questions I ask to decide if creative outsourcing is meeting my standards as a creative entrepreneur:  

  • Am I outsourcing a repeatable process?
  • Do I dictate how it's done?
  • Do I have final approval?

To me, if the answer to these questions is YES, then I believe you are still in control of the outcome and that it does not deceive your credibility with your client or with you as an artist.

I'll admit that this is all putting it rather simply! I would love to hear your thoughts especially when it comes to the gray areas! Where do you think the line is? What about a service industry? Could someone outsource part of their service? Are their parts of the creative process that shouldn't be outsourced regardless of the "control" component?