Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Working For Free- The New Freelance Cliché!

Cliché: a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. A banal phrase, stock phrase; a stereotype or electrotype. 

I've been reading more and more posts and grumblings from illustrators and designers about the constant requests for free work. Is this the new freelance cliché

A great article that got everyone talking was from The New York Times: 

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

I'm realizing that the old stereotype of the "starving artist" idea has now been surpassed by the request of "work for free." As someone who has been dutiful in my education and as an illustrator this continually saddens me. 

Please understand this post is not going against doing charity work which is an important to do. I'm talking about the lack of appreciation of your skills as someone in the business of illustration offering a worthwhile creative business service. In other words, you are not a hobbyist! 

Ok. So it's 2013. We have everything at our creative disposal when it comes to promotional freedom, wide open access to markets and endless places to promote ourselves. This is all advanced compared to the olden days of illustration where you relied solely on mail, word of mouth, a smaller world of competition and the phone. If we are so advanced with resources up the yin-yang then we do we still hold onto the idea that our time and our work are not worth being paid for? Too many are believing that free exposure is a good thing. Exposure can leave you cold. It can leave you hungry with unpaid bills. As the old expression goes: You can die from too much exposure. 

Next time you see a contest advertising for free art work, have a look at how many line up to participate. Again, this saddens me. Not only does it make it hard on the participants but for the rest of too. Just like spec work, it's a gamble. 

I remember a time I was asked to do free work for a business. When I asked how long they were in business they said 3 years. I replied that I was in my career at the time for 15 years. Do you see the perspective shift there? A light bulb went off that day! 

Ever hear the expression confidence is sexy? So is confidently standing up for your career! Good workers like wages. Dedicated illustrators like to create daily. Now we need to combine the two. 

Here's a great quote by James Goldsmith- "If you pay peanutsyou get monkeys." Now here's something to think about: If they pay you nothing then what do they really get? What's truly in it for you?  


Kristy Guenther said...

This is something every illustrator/creative professional needs to hear! If enough of us hold fast by charging what we are worth, then maybe someday people will take the hint and stop asking for free/spec work! I really hope it goes that way!

Unknown said...

The only issue I have with this is the idea that working for free is in any way the "new" cliche. This one has been around (and prominent) for decades.

Thanks for speaking up!

Holly DeWolf said...

Thanks Kristy. Good points there and I hope it goes that way too.

I understand your points Unknown and thank you. My point was that it's the new stereotype that had surpassed the old "starving artist" stereotype. Because more and more creatives are griping about it means its happening more and more. Plus we are talking about it more which is bringing it out into the open. Either way these cliches are not good for business. Thanks for reading. All the creative best to both of you! Cheers!

Michelle said...

Thanks for sharing! It's bad enough for experts to be paid so little, but paid nothing? That's like going to the doctor without paying them

Many folks need to wake up and realize that artists, especially ones with years of experience to back them up, are experts. Illustration isn't just a hobby, and the sooner that gets realized the sooner the industry will shape up.

Holly DeWolf said...

Well said Michelle. This is going to be one of those things that is going to have to change from within from illustrators. Folks are going to keep asking for free work but we can decline their invitation for it. Saying No is going to take time for many. All the creative best-Cheers and thanks for commenting.

LadyLucas said...

Great article... and I'm so glad we're finally talking about this in the illustration community! After working as a full time artist for the past two years... I am finally seeing the light and keeping focused as I now only accept paid jobs. I also insist on contracts and exact payment terms before my Sharpie ever hits the paper ;)

Holly DeWolf said...

Thank you LadyLucas for your comment. Well put! Contracts are really important and working out terms. It says you are professional, looking after your best interests plus it also helps protect the client as well. All the creative best to you!