For approximately one month now I have been assisting a commercial and fashion director based in East London. Following some reflections prompted by the experience so far.
As soon as you get a glimpse of the so-called "industry", your work dynamics will start to change. You understand how much it is true, especially in a city like London, that (and I mean this in a very unfortunate and sad way) your time always equals money. Especially if your work takes place in and outside of a 9-5 routine, you will find out that by gifting your time to others you are effectively taking it from yourself. Because of this, eventually you will start putting a price on your time, or at the very least put set boundaries in the way you interface yourself with people you work for, or with.
Before even saying yes to a project, you will have to think about deliverables. Amends included in the fee. Rights of use of the work produced. Budgets for everything. Different labels to put on what you do: you might be known as a photographer, but you might need to act as a producer, as a set designer, as a DOP. All these things should come at a cost. Although this might seem like a daunting task, once you are actually clear on what you do and how much you charge for it, you immediately become more confident and able to make claims you can then back up with reasoning.
You start thinking about other's works in terms of budget, mentally working out how much they might have spent to achieve something. It is during this period that I truly realised what my tutors meant when they told us "never put yourself in a box" while working on university projects. This is because the industry does so to you, as soon as you figure out what your elevator pitch should be. Talking more generically about what I have seen around me by working in a shared studio more than my own experience, work seems to become extremely practical, with no time to reflect on experiences, or why we do what we do as creatives. Thinking requires time, and as I said, time equals money, so the bottom line is, it is expensive to be a thinker. Make sure you make those 9K an year worth them.
To be a creative's assistant means to be their life assistant. In a good way! Let me explain. This is not a job in which you work 9 to 5, but instead you are supposed to form a human relationship with your "boss". You get involved in whatever they are up to in life, their loved ones, their pets, their friends. In order to do a good job soft skills are essential more than anything else. This is at least the case in my limited experience, but at the same time it feels that is how it should be, especially when you hear all those ugly "devil-wears-Prada" style stories from the fashion industry where people are highly mistreated. That is perhaps the great thing of working in the creative industry after all: that we don't have to wear suit and ties and work in big, alienating offices in the City, but instead live in a way more organic workplace. We are artists after all.