A few years I learned a tough lesson about the importance of doing good work.
I was working on a single for a metal band and I prioritized my time over the quality of my work.
Although the session went well in general, I knew I could’ve done a better job with the final deliverable. The mix sounded just “ok.” Nothing spectacular but nothing terrible either. Everything was well balanced but I definitely could’ve spent more time making it heavier and more aggressive. The guitars didn’t translate well to every speaker system and the drums probably could’ve been punchier.
(To the layman that doesn’t understand audio jargon, that just means the difference between an A+ and a C).
However, because the entire job was taking way too long and the budget was so small, I decided to listen to my inner entrepreneur instead of my inner artist.
The inner entrepreneur was saying:
Dude…you’re making less than minimum wage at this point. You’ve put in much more time than the budget allowed. The tracking and editing already took too long! You need to finish this mix quickly if you’re going to stay in the black. Time is money buddy. You’re never getting it back. This is NOT what they taught you in business school!
However, my inner artist pleaded with me:
But…but…but…this is a piece of art you’re involved with that’s going to live forever! You can’t just ignore it! You have to make sure you contribute the highest quality work you can. Who cares if you put in two extra hours in the long run? It’s not a waste of time if you end up with something you’re proud of!
Of course, in this case, the inner artist was right. Even though I knew it didn’t sound good I just wanted the project over with.
The irony of the story is that it was a lose-lose situation for both the inner artist AND the inner entrepreneur.
The art wasn’t as good as it could’ve been and because of that, the band didn’t come back. And since getting repeat clients is the lifeblood of any business, ignoring my inner artist actually made business worse.
As a creative, we constantly juggle the creative satisfaction and the commercial viability we get from our work. The work needs to be creative enough to satisfy our artistic needs while still having enough demand to pay our bills.
However, don’t disguise your artistic perfection as an excuse for procrastination. Being an unrealistic perfectionist is just another way to procrastinate and never finish your art.
There’s a sweet spot where the quality of your work meets the skills you have at that moment in time. If you know that you’ll be proud of it in ten years, even if your skills have skyrocketed in that time and the work feels like a child of its time, then it’s still good work.
If you can look back and proudly say that you did the best you could at that time, that’s when you know you’ve found the sweet spot.
Do work you’re proud of now and you’ll be proud of it forever.