Have you noticed how it’s really subtle when people don’t even offer to pay an artist, they take the deal with? If you’re an artist, you must have come across situations where people tell you; “hey you have got talent real kid, you should come work for us. We are in a tight situation and can’t afford to pay you right now, but believe us, you will be getting great exposure. Also, if we like your work, we will make you permanent.”
How often do we come across situations where people forget that we do something of value and it’s not always necessary to pay an artist. So, business firms and corporates always have this notion that if we look for a talented but emerging artist, we can get them on board by just promising them networking and exposure opportunities.
Whether you are a painter, a writer, photographer, a sketcher, or decorator, any job that requires a sufficient amount of creativity and talent, is absolutely worth to be paid a decent amount. In this article, let me tell you why an artist should never work for free…
Great exposure is not always enough.
I don’t deny that accepting certain offers for the sake of exposure is totally okay. But you have to understand something fundamental here. Exposure isn’t always going to earn you bread and butter. Sure, your art will climb ladders of fame, but is that fame really going to get you paid in the future? Are you certain? I urge you to trust your gut here, to check the reputation and requirement of the business making a proposition.
Your art is your business and handing out a free piece is like a demo. Yes, it’s important that people see and understand your work before they pay for it. But find that abide by the line that separates exposure projects and paid projects. Don’t let anyone use your skills without giving you the right value.
Non-creative professionals won’t be asked to work for free.
“Guess what? This is a huge project with more than a hundred people working on it. You’d be getting real experience and you’d get to network with tons of artists working here. We can’t afford to pay you right now but if you look at the bright side, there are a lot of other benefits for you.” It’s almost common for artists, be it a photographer or a musician or writer, to receive such offers.
But spare a moment and think, will non-creative professionals be offered such a deal? Will a lawyer be told to fight a case just because it is interesting, or will capture attention from potential clients? The answer is a definite no. Then, why should one work for free? Even you are, just like a lawyer, going to put in a lot of hard work and utilize your skills. So, you deserve to be paid too.
One free work result into more free work
Working for free will not only affect you but it’s going to twist the mindsets of people to thinking that it’s okay to not pay an artist for their work. Your clients can always go like; “oh! but you didn’t charge us the last time” or “but you worked for xyz for free” or, ABC is ready to do it for free, or some other artist took the unpaid work, even you are offered the same proposition.
Your art, your work and style are unique. If someone wants your service, you deserve to get a decent payment, even though other artists have worked for free. You set the value for yourself when you firmly ask for a payment. A paid deal is always professional, fair and frank.
Paid work establishes a positive business relationship
Some people just agree to work for free, for reasons like; it’s for a friend, for the love of their art or to get paid gigs in the future. On what basis will your client be able to trust you with the product he wants, if they aren’t paying you anything? Even practising art is a business and when its unpaid assignment, its always considered a superficial one.
If you aren’t paid for your craft, you won’t be considered professional. On the contrary, paid work establishes a positive business relationship with your customers by giving them a chance to expect quality work from you.
Artists work hard. They deserve to be paid.
One honestly doesn’t need any other reason but this. To not work for free. Artists, be it writers, photographers, musicians, dancers, singers, painters, sketchers or poets – work hard day and night to polish and sharpen their art. Artists make things beautiful, they provide insights into unknown and undiscovered. They, with their art, have the potential to bring out a change in society. If you are an artist and possess a skill in doing something creatively in your unique way, never work for free. Do not devalue your art by not asking for payment.
When you are offering your clients a product or service, you deserve to be paid for your skills. Remember, when you accept unpaid offers, you are devaluing your own art and skills as a professional. It may be a close friend or a relative but when you’re giving your service, they are your customer and its strictly business.
If someone does promise you good exposure and other opportunities, take a call based on the reputation and background check for the company, client or customer. Once in a while, when its affordable and you are certain of its benefits, an unpaid gig is fine. So, the next time someone asks you to do free work, ask them for the money you think your art deserves or, kindly decline.
- Joan Atuhwera is a Business Administration Graduate, a Human Rights activist and writer with over five years’ experience in pursuing justice for others via her keyboard. She can also be reached via email: [email protected] or WhatsApp +256774334595
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