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prairiecrow

Should artists and writers work for free?

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Hello, all! My topic for today is one that always seems to get good discussion going on any forum where there are a lot of creative individuals: Should artists/writers/photographers/etc do commercial work for free?

 

I was inspired by a recent post on a comic art Facebook group I belong to:

 

"Looking for a graphic artist to do some color artwork based on my sci fi screenplay. There is no pay. We are looking for investors to have a graphic novel done. If we like your artwork we may hire you."

 

... and every time I see this kind of idiocy, I wonder: "Are people really stupid enough to fall for this kind of scam? Are they really that eager to get taken?"

 

It seems that some folks are. See the following Mark Evanier article on this very subject:

 

http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL210.htm

 

The rule of thumb, in my experience, runs thusly: If someone asks you to do work for free on a project that will "make tons of money for everyone!", they're out to screw you over. Just try asking them for a contract guaranteeing your rights to future profits and watch the interesting colors they turn. biggrin.gif And if they say "You can use it in their portfolio!", what they're failing to point out is that all such a portfolio credit really says is "Hey! I'm wiling to work for free! KICK ME, PLEASE!"

 

In my opinion (speaking purely in terms of commercial endeavours), creative individuals should charge a fair rate for their talent and experience, if for no other reason than that undercharging/giving away freebies damages the ability of other people in their industry to negotiate a fair price. It constantly amazes me that non-creative individuals seem to think that they can get free stuff out of us, when they wouldn't consider asking their plumber to work for free or their grocery store to give them free food in exchange for good word of mouth.

 

So, what say you? smile.gif

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I generally agree with you, prairiecrow.

 

People, who don't create, often think that it comes easy and don't appreciate the time that the artist has spent on the work they make, not even speaking of years learning their skill and buying materials, etc., especially if they're your friends/relatives etc.

 

Here's my favourite rant about this topic.

I love how she points out that you don't ask a surgeon to operate you for free just because you're on good terms with them, why can't the same apply to art, which is a valid trade?

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Heck no. Because if writers don't get paid, then I am guaranteed to fail in life. If all else fails, I'm leaning on writing to be my career. Any artist or writer that is so desperate to be recognized that they'll fall for a scam like that is either not very talented or not trying hard enough. If you're good at something, don't waste it on no-pay carp like that.

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I'd have to agree. I don't think artists/writers/etc should have to work for free on something. I suppose if it's something you and your friend are doing (like a little comic for fun) then that's fine obviously, but scams like this just make me angry.

 

A lot of thought, planning and time goes into every creation whether you're a writer or an artists, not to mention that there are expenses for both, so working for free just doesn't make much sense.

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I think it's a choice. I've worked for free before as a writer, before the site had to be closed down. I saw it as getting experience. I didn't feel used. I volunteered for it.

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I think it's a choice. I've worked for free before as a writer, before the site had to be closed down. I saw it as getting experience. I didn't feel used. I volunteered for it.

Of course any artist/writer will have projects that they choose to get involved with for the sake of experience. I'm talking more about artists/writers being approached by an entrepreneur who intends to make money off a project and wants the artist/writer to work pro bono to "get the project off the ground" or some such nonsense. Often the entrepreneur will try to wheedle or flatter the artist/writer into taking part while making extravagant promises about future profits.

 

In my opinion that's the point at which I'd say: "If you intend to make a profit on my work, I want money at the front end, which is the only place I'm guaranteed to get it." If the entrepreneur in question doesn't have the money to pay me, then they're obviously awful at business (and therefore aren't safe to get involved with) and/or have no intention of EVER paying me in this lifetime (in which case I'd be a sucker to give them something for nothing).

 

This scenario usually doesn't apply to two artists/writers teaming up to start a new project, since both are taking a similar risk. smile.gif

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There's a website I don't feel quite right linking to due to the language called shouldiworkforfree. I largely agree with it. It's basically a flow-chart that describes situations where one might or might not work for free. The "But it's good exposure 8D" was described as, "This is the most toxic line of BS anyone will ever feed you."

 

There were situations on it that did have "yes" as a legitimate answer, and no, family begging for free work was not one of them. Unless it was your mom, because labor entitles moms to a bit of free work.

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I'd say so.

For instance, I have a friend who does web development. She said when she's bored and out looking for extra work she comes across offers like "Need: Web developer/designer/photographer/artist/writer for multi-page Java/Flash website. Will pay *some absurdly low amount*"

 

Frankly, at that rate for that amount of work/expertise, it might as well be free.

Plus, I imagine there are plenty of individuals out there vying for the exact same imaginary web developer but for free or "work experience". As if someone who is even moderately talented to any degree in all of those things needs free work experience (they're probably up to their chin in stuff to do already).

 

I wouldn't do it, and I would strongly advise any friend I had not to do it, but that's just me.

If people want to be suckered in, I won't stop 'em.

*shrug*

 

Edited by Pink

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Here's my question -- would you trust a chemist who just appeared at a lab with credentials and all, who said they wanted to work with radioactive materials without pay?

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No way! Writers and artists deserve to be paid for their work!

 

It's a lot harder than non-writers/artists think it is to come up with something that looks good. Then to refine it, especially if you have a picky customer to please.

 

If it was so easy that it didn't merit pay, tell them to make it themselves then!

 

 

 

Of course, if they want to, that's their choice, but I feel like most of the time they shouldn't work for free.

 

"It's good exposure" pays no bills, after all.

 

 

Of course, there are times when it would be good to do free work, but generally I figure that unless it's a personal project, you should get at least some payment for your time and effort.

 

Or, as somebody said, volunteering your services to get more experience, especially if it's for a non-profit thing. (Like DC, for example).

 

 

But if anybody approached me and asked me to write/draw something for a project that was supposed to make money, I'd very likely want payment for it. Sure, I tend to use digital means and thus don't have a lot of 'cost of materials' kind of stuff, but it's still time I could be using to work on something else and I'd expect at least some kind of compensation for the use of my time and skills.

 

Unless, of course, it falls under the category of 'projects I feel passionately about enough to work for free', but that'd be really limited. And generally, if it's something like that, I'm the one taking the initiative and volunteering my services free of charge because I want to help.

 

 

 

It's a load of bull to try and talk them into working for free, and it's just not fair to them. How do people expect them to pay the bills and thus continue to be able to offer their services if they don't get any money from their work?

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Hello, all! My topic for today is one that always seems to get good discussion going on any forum where there are a lot of creative individuals: Should artists/writers/photographers/etc do commercial work for free?

 

Yes, if that's what they choose to do. Are you suggesting this should be regulated. or are you just arguing that the artists shouldn't settle for what's offered i.e. nothing but empty promises?

 

Should volunteer firefighting be done away with? Many firefighters in CA, Florida, etc. have six figure salaries.

 

Here's my question -- would you trust a chemist who just appeared at a lab with credentials and all, who said they wanted to work with radioactive materials without pay?

 

Sort of ironic because I just read an article about some 17 year old posing as a physician's assistant in an operating/emergency room.

 

But what about Maria Goeppert-Mayer? I believe her research as a volunteer associate professor is what got her the Nobel Prize in Physics.

 

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My feeling is No. They need to eat and shelter/clothe themselves as much as anyone else. Art — and writing is an art — is a culture's heart. It ups our quality of life, as well.

 

I saw a nice cartoon the other day. It was an application of the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper to the discussion of defunding NPR and the NEA. The story didn't end with the Grasshopper starving in the winter, but sitting down to eat with the Ant because the Ant enjoyed the Grasshopper's playing, worked to the beat of his music, and harvested more; and he felt the Grasshopper, in his own way, earned the extra food.

 

Also, take this into consideration: Ireland has a powerful and long-running artistic tradition, as shown by its bardic past. Bards could make or break Irish Royalty. As such, modern-day Ireland doesn't tax its artists.

Edited by Xocowolf

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Yes, if that's what they choose to do. Are you suggesting this should be regulated. or are you just arguing that the artists shouldn't settle for what's offered i.e. nothing but empty promises?

Fairly certain the suggestion is not to have a corporate culture of using artists whenever possible instead of paying them, rather than discouraging free choice and volunteering from time to time.

 

Artists need to respect themselves and their work more, not fall for the BS lines people feed them to try to get free work.

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People should only "work for free" if that's what they *want* and *choose*.

 

It's wrong and stupid and rude and *very* demoralizing for *anyone* to assume that artists and writers should or can work for free. Those types of "ads" and such are indeed scams. People trying to get a service done for free by wording it as an "everyone benefits!" type of deal. Not happening.

 

Sure, I like to write. And my mother likes to take care of children. Does that mean that she shouldn't be paid to babysit for 10+ hours a day? I don't think anyone would question that teachers and nannys deserve to be paid, so why is it any different for me just because my "service" would be writing?

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No. I've written an unpublished 18 page book, which I'm in the process of editing. If writing does turn out to be my career, I'm not working for free--everyone does NOT benefit. Think about it. Giving books away for free one day a year is okay, but not every day, because if you don't have another job, you won't get money, so you can't buy food when you do run out, and you'll die. The same applies to art. I like painting, but the same as writing, I'm not painting for free. I'm good at drawing, too. Should that mean I don't get paid for it? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on if I'm doing it for fun or for a living.

 

~Cavey

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I think there are certain situations where artists (especially new ones) should consider working for free on a particular project. It's not entirely related, but I'm a freelance web designer on the side of high school and working at the local pharmacy. I got my first few paid commissions from people seeing my work for someone else that I wasn't paid for. I'm not saying that you should work on scams, but if there's a not for profit place around who's looking for help it's a good start.

 

This also brings up an interesting point. There are scams everywhere. You don't have to be in a particular field to run into them. My dad's boss has been approached by individuals who knew him, who wanted him to do the blueprints for a new house. My dad's boss wouldn't logically be able to do it, because just to start blueprints of the type he'd have to pay his insurance $1500+. And these people wanted it for free (although they wanted to build the house, then sell it for lots of $$$). That's not to mention his time, efforts and the liability he would take on, in addition to the $1500.

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Now, to admit, I've done some artwork for various friends/acquaintances/projects for free every now and then - but then it has been strictly voluntary and out of my free will. I wouldn't do the same for any person walking up to me and asking, even less react to a random 'advertisement' on some page. (And though I on some very rare occasions have written on requests, I've never written to-be-released works for free. Various little entries written for one's own non-profit entertainment (e.g. roleplay posts) are naturally excluded.)

 

In other words, if the artist happens to feel like doing someone he or she knows a favor, I don't oppose it, but I do not approve of people *expecting* artists writers to work for free or next to free. Even less I approve of those who simply go and take a piece without asking - those who perform art-theft, in essence.

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It depends. If it's just for kicks like DC or for a close friend, I'm fine with not getting paid at all, but when I'm on deviantArt or other sites and people expect me to draw things for them for nothing? No. I'll refuse every time because even I have debts to pay and art is one of the only (and very meager) incomes that I have.

 

It's bad enough that I'll spend twelve hours on a picture that makes $30 at best, asking for my work for free unless I offered it is like a slap in the face. I'd like to think I'm worth at least $2.50/hour

Edited by dragon_mando

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Interesting question. What I want to know is how else are "creative" people supposed to get their names out? Take out an ad? Self-publish something? These things take money, and that's why many "creative" people don't make it in their endeavors. Now, if you ended up working as the artist in an indie movie that ends up being very successful, I guarantee you'll have a job next year with hollywood or whatever. The problem is that there are so many people looking for a chance that they'll take any they can find regardless of pay, just so that they can take that first step to getting into the industry. Look at actors, do you think they get paid a lot trying to get their feet in the doors?

 

Would I work for free? No, but then again, I'm not an artist. If I did, I would at least want the legal rights to the stuff I drew/wrote/painted/etc, even if I don't get paid.

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Well, if I were an artist and was about to be hired online, I'd require an agreement specifying every single aspect of the job, with both of our signatures. And in the agreement I would ask for half of the money first. Then when the job gets done, I would receive the other half.

 

And I really would only apply for big things. Drawing a quick pic for somebody isn't really a time taker. Of course that if someone asks to do something largely detailed, then I would charge for it, because it's now a commission, and not a simple drawing.

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I so strongly believe the answer to the title question is 'No' that, when I hunt for artists to do commissions on my behalf, I turn down freebie offers. I've had a long debate with one artist because they said "but most of the things I draw ends up binned, you can't pay me upfront", and I very stubbornly insisted that if they're doing work, even if the result is not workable for our purposes, then that still deserves payment.*

 

Similarly, if an artists draws something from start to finish and I don't like the end result, if I want it redone? Recommission, extra payment.

 

'Ironically', I call myself a capitalist. Whoo.

 

* Ironically, I still understand why it made him uncomfortable (I'm a phenomenally insecure artist, myself, and with unflinching hypocrisy would not accept money for my work because I am nowhere near talented), so we simply respectfully parted ways in the end.

Edited by pinkgothic

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My dream and goal in this life of mine is to become a photographer... And I'd say that I for one won't work for free in the future when I feel like I'm ready to take it "to the next level".

But right now I don't mind working for free, at least when it comes to portraits since I'm not all too good at that yet. However, when I feel like portraits is something I can photograph as easily as I can photograph the nature, animals and bugs right now I'll most likely change that and stop working for free.

And I need pictures for my portfolio as well, so there's yet another reason to work for free right now.

 

I draw a lot too, so I know how many hours it takes to make a very detailed picture (I spend 8 hours or more on very detailed pictures). Though, I've no plans at all to work with it, so I for one will probably never ask to get paid for the things I draw... After all, I can only draw things I want to draw or if someone inspired me to draw something.

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Look at actors, do you think they get paid a lot trying to get their feet in the doors?

Not a lot, but they do get paid. Even actors trying to get in the door don't work for free.

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Interesting question. What I want to know is how else are "creative" people supposed to get their names out? Take out an ad? Self-publish something? These things take money, and that's why many "creative" people don't make it in their endeavors. Now, if you ended up working as the artist in an indie movie that ends up being very successful, I guarantee you'll have a job next year with hollywood or whatever. The problem is that there are so many people looking for a chance that they'll take any they can find regardless of pay, just so that they can take that first step to getting into the industry. Look at actors, do you think they get paid a lot trying to get their feet in the doors?

 

Would I work for free? No, but then again, I'm not an artist. If I did, I would at least want the legal rights to the stuff I drew/wrote/painted/etc, even if I don't get paid.

It's not a bad idea to work for free under the right circumstances--but if somebody approaches you and asks you to make art for their project that's "guaranteed to be a huge success, making a ton of money" and it's a "win-win" for you because "you get to add it to your portfolio" but you get zero share of the "ton of money" it's "guaranteed" to make, that is not doing free work to get your name out there--that is being a sucker and getting your name out there as "easy to scam out of their time and effort for absolutely nothing but empty words!"

 

 

Artists who want to get their name out there can join art websites and start taking online commissions, or they can do some volunteer artwork for non-profit organizations or something. They don't have to give up their time and energy for nothing.

 

 

Especially when you take into account that they use materials that cost money.. They're not just working for free, they're essentially paying money to work for somebody while they get almost nothing in return. Sure, with digital artists it's not so much, but still.

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Especially when you take into account that they use materials that cost money.. They're not just working for free, they're essentially paying money to work for somebody while they get almost nothing in return. Sure, with digital artists it's not so much, but still.

I would say that given that each (competent and talented) artist has a unique style and vision that they bring to their work, they invest a heck of a lot in each piece they produce. Part of what the client pays for is that uniqueness, that vision, that style that no one else on the planet can give them, and that is certainly far from worthless in and of itself even if the artist is working digitally (and given how much high-powered graphics machines and programs like Photoshop cost, there's still a significant overhead even in "non-analogue" works).

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