Artists Working For Free – Book Covers, Logos, and so on

Originally posted –


Submitted by BelindaPepper on October 12th, 2013 – Flag this news as inappropriate

Category: Art

I understand that art is in one of those “hard to classify” categories. People still can’t work out whether artistic ability is some sort of freakish gift bestowed upon a minority at birth, or if it’s something people learn through practice and perseverance. It’s also difficult to judge the quality or creative merit of artwork- after all, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, right? How do you consistently assess work that is largely subjective? Art also isn’t taken seriously- it’s the subject in school least likely to give you university/college credits, and anything goes. Express yourself. There are no mistakes in art. Serious business folk need not apply- airy fairy hipsters only.

So believe me, I understand why people find it difficult to put a price tag on art. If we don’t understand it, and we’ve been raised to believe that art isn’t a serious form of work, how are we supposed to feel right about shelling out our hard-earned money for it? Scraping sixteen layers of grease off the local diner’s cooker is work. Art is fun play time stuff. 

Despite the fact that most people view art as a “want” rather than a “must have”, inevitably people need to hire artists at some point in their lives. Just a few scenarios:

> You need a logo for your family business. 

> You’re self-publishing a book, and need a book cover.

> You need a website built, and it needs to look professional and attractive.

> You’re launching an online advertising campaign, and need banner images.

> You’re realising your dream to build your own computer game. You need artists (musicians, voice actors, concept artists, modellers, texture artists, etc).

> You’re a songwriter, and need to find musicians to perform your work.

> You’re a filmmaker, you need musicians, actors, concept artists, matte painters, modellers, texture artists, cinematographers, etc.

I’m sure if I sat here long enough, I could name an instance (or instances) where an artist is required for every industry in existence. If you really think about it, art is everywhere. It infiltrates our lives. Without artists, there wouldn’t be:

> Interior design

> Computer games or software

> Television shows or movies

> Fashion

> Advertising

> Websites

> Architecture

> Products (i.e. prototype design)

> Music

> Toys

> Books

But, because art is so difficult to understand, it isn’t taken seriously. Despite the fact without artists, our lives would be very boring, and very ugly.

And don’t get me wrong, the discrimination isn’t limited to unartistic folk. Artists themselves find it difficult to put a price tag on art. 

Despite the odds stacked against me, I’m going to try to rectify some of the misconceptions about art. The main one being:

ART ISN’T WORTH MUCH MONEY. Why should you pay for someone else’s “play time”?

As a freelance artist, I’m constantly hit with clients who don’t want to pay.

“The max I’m willing to pay for that image is $5, despite the fact it’ll likely take you about 20 hours to complete.”

“Why should I pay so much money for a logo? It’s just a handful of shapes and text.”

“I don’t have the money to pay you your full fee, so can we work out some sort of other agreement? If I mention you on facebook, can you shave $400 off the price?”

“I want to launch this amazing product, but first I need you to work for free. Don’t worry, your time will totally be worth it- this product is going to be the NEXT BIG THING. The exposure for your work will be astronomical. Who knows, if I make enough money, maybe I can throw some your way too!”

“I know I promised to money for this gig, but now that you’ve completed the job, I’m not sure it’s ‘my sorta thing’. I know you followed my directions (or lack thereof) to the letter, but this just doesn’t ‘do it’ for me. See ya later.”

“Sorry, due to the fact I’m unable to follow through on anything I start, the project isn’t going ahead. So you’re not getting paid for any of the work you’ve done. Why should I have to pay for something I can’t use?”

“You’re asking how much? I know you’re an experienced artist who has done amazing work for huge companies, and you’ve got 30 years professional experience, but I have a nephew who can draw pretty good, and he would do it for a fiver. Why can’t you?”

This kind of behaviour isn’t limited to just my own experience. Artists are constantly fighting for the right to earn money from their work. 

View the following comic by artist Melanie Gillman:

Or this awesome youtube video produced by Scofield Editorial:

Or anything on David Thorne’s website or in his books:

Before you hire an artist, think about some of the following:

> Would you go to an expensive five-star restaurant, and expect to pay the same amount for a meal as if you’d gone to KFC?

> Would you expect a surgeon to work for free, because your new plastic-surgery-improved face would be “excellent exposure” for him?

> If you changed your mind about what you wanted your house to look like half way through a build, would you expect the builder to tear the house down and rebuild it to the new design… for free?

> Would you work 48 hours per week as the manager of a major corporation for free, just because people think that kind of job would be cool and therefore should only count as “fun time”?

> Would you build a table and chair set for free as a “trial” for someone who “might” be interested in buying more furniture from you?

> Would you pay a painter just $5 to paint your entire house, just because painting “doesn’t look that hard”?

> If you owned a retail store, would you get away paying your suppliers for the stock they’ve given you only after your store is a smashing success?

Remember, the only difference between these scenarios and working with an artist is perspective. 

Another way clients get out of paying artists for work is through what is called spec work. If you’ve never heard of spec work, watch this youtube video:

Basically, spec work is when you hire an artist to do work for you, but they only get paid if you like their work. Spec work is OFTEN disguised as competitions, but there are also places (*cough*99designs*cough*) that blatantly use spec work to take advantage of starving artists (and to line the pockets of scammers too- good luck telling which is which).

But what if it’s the artist who is undercharging or choosing to work for free? Does that make it right? Depends. Consider these points:

You get what you pay for: 

If an artist is charging pocket change for their work, you have to wonder why. It could be that they’re not very good, and everyone and their pet monkey can tell that their work is amateurish. 

It could be that they’re scamming you. They lure clients in with cheap prices, and give you stolen work, copied work, or nothing at all.

The artist is a victim of society:

They might be a brilliant artist, but they still work for less than minimum wage. This is probably because they’ve got low self-esteem, and/or they’ve spent their entire lives being taught that art isn’t worth anything.

The artist has only ever worked for cheapskates:

They think the only way they’ll ever make a living with art is if they work for slave wages. Why? Because cheapskates (like you?) only ever hire them if they work for less than the cost of a cup of coffee. They feel obligated to cost less than everyone else, just to get their foot in the door.

Is this the kind of environment you want to perpetuate? Remember, artists who work for free or cheap don’t last very long. They can’t- they have to go get a higher paying job as a kitchenhand at the local diner. They’ve got bills to pay, after all. This means that they don’t have time to gain experience and reach pro skill levels. This means that if you stick to the cheap/free price bracket, you’re only ever going to get sub-par work. 

If you need an artist for a project, have a think about how you would like to be treated. Lay off the cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or partying for a few weeks, and you will more than likely be able to afford a professional, experienced artist. And you’ll be helping to support an industry that supports society.

If you know someone who might be a cheapskate when it comes to hiring artists, please share this article with them. Maybe, just maybe, we can get folks to start treating artists like… you know… everyone else?


About BJ Avilla

I am a pan-mythical thriller writer, mainly seeking for inter-religious communication, peace, and the view of relative truth. I am against all the perverted ideas and paradigms such as political Zionism and extreme nationalism as well as all types of colonialism, and religious and cultural elitism, which have been threatening world peace for many centuries. Thank you for visiting my blog.
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