I am not sure if it is a trait among the creative, but it has been pointed out to me several times that creative people “let” themselves be taken advantage of. This can be from working long hours with little or no pay or being asked to do things that are not quite in our job description (like a graphic designer taking photos for a client.)
I usually think that I am pretty conscious of what I am doing for people, when I do it and what I am going to get in return. There are times when I let my guard down, and those are the times I get myself in trouble. Working long hours is bad for the body, mind and interpersonal relationships. The work suffers and, because I failed to say “no,” the relationship with the customer suffers. Bad for everyone.
So what can we, the trusting artist, do? I am not really sure. Run all your projects or clients by someone who is more aware or immune to charm? That seems like it is going a bit far. I like the idea of being self sufficient when possible and knocking more than one thing of a list at a time.
My solution is scheduling and a solid support structure. If you have a schedule with all of the projects outlined you will see when you have to say “no” to stay within you time constraints. This will show the client that you know your limitations and are not willing to over book yourself and allow the quality of work to suffer. If you have a long standing relationship with the client they may give you the project at a later time, to fit with your schedule.
Skipping a new project to allow yourself to do a good job on a current project may be a good thing for you. Less stress and more time to explore and hone your skill. This is better than doing the same things over and over, killing whatever passion you had.
The schedule will also show you how much you are doing each day and help with future projects. From personal experience, I can say that when I get creating and am really interested in what I am doing, I can loose track of time. I know that I can go for four to five hours at a time, with few breaks. I usually do not stop until I am done. I can write down my start time and end time each session to learn my patterns and figure out how much time it takes me for each project. Handy for billing, and learning my peak productivity times and conditions.
People you trust implicitly are important too. If you know anyone that “gives it to you straight” all the time, you might want to ask them if you are being taken advantage of. Friends and family want the best for you and can be a big help when it comes to seeing beyond the charm others have.
In the end, I do not think that the trusting artist is ever going to avoid being abused by clients. Only friends and family (managers and agents) can help protect you. Do you best by being aware of your time and build a solid support structure. Do frequent reality checks, and keep creating.