I wish someone told this to me when I was 12 years old and just starting out with art.
This is a message to all the new and emerging artists interested in breaking into the art industry:
If you've ever tried selling your artwork, you need to know that there are people out there who will willingly (or unknowingly) take advantage of you as an artist and I want you to know how to spot them, and how not to undersell yourself.
This is one of the worst and most prominent issues I've experienced as an artist: No matter what, "exposure" is not an acceptable form of payment for you as an artist. At the end of the day, you're not being compensated for your time and talents. Exposure might sound useful if you don't have a lot of viewers or subscribers yet, but it doesn't guarantee you any more job offers, n'or does it put money in your pocket. You can't pay bills with "exposure", and respectable employers know that. Don't be afraid to call people out on these things. Often times they don't understand or appreciate the value of art.
Here are some actual examples of what this might look like:
- "Pay? Are you kidding me? This is going to be a viral hit!"
- "I want to find someone who can work with me as a partner and not an "employee"."
- "I know this may not attract as many artists, but the ones that are only looking to get paid are not the ones that we are looking for"
- "This is an unpaid position but great experience. Carly Rae Jepson will be attending."
- "since I'm not intending to sell this I don't want to be paying for artwork."
Quotes from @Forexposure_txt on Twitter.
99Designs is an example, and this video makes me sick. Art contests and collaborations can be innocent enough, but be cautious when volunteering your time and talent for them. Often they're just an excuse for businesses or individuals to pay a small flat rate as a "prize" for a large selection of free artwork that they can use for their own benefit. You're literally giving your work away for free if you're not successful. It's like buying a cheap lottery ticket for a chance to win your paycheck, and that's not fair to you as an artist.
Companies that use crowd-sourced design are real and somehow thriving. Stay away! They don't care about you, and they're just interested in getting what they want for as cheap as possible!
Stephen Silver couldn't have said it better in his Youtube video. You as an artist have a marketable skill. Your work has taken years if not decades to perfect. Although there may be artists out there with similar skills, no one is exactly the same as you, and they don't possess your style. You're marketing your unique product to people that probably can't create the artwork themselves. When you sell artwork for $5-10, even $20 or $100 dollars, think about how many hours you put into the project. If you spent 3 hours drawing something you sold for $20 dollars, you're giving yourself LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE---less than 7 dollars per hour, to be exact. That's not fair to you, even if you enjoy that particular project, or it's for a 'friend'.
These are not commissions. If someone approaches you with an "art request", it's usually safe to safe to assume that this person has absolutely NO intention of paying you.
Do not agree to these if you think you can convince them to pay you later.
Although it can depend on the type of artwork involved, you can avoid being ripped off by taking payments up-front, and you shouldn't be afraid to demand that. I take all of my payments through Paypal.com or in person. Imagine spending days, weeks, or months on a project, only to have the person who agreed to pay you disappear completely, or even worse, STEAL your completed artwork without paying you a cent. This can and will happen if you aren't careful, and it's happened to me. Of course the opposite can be true with artists running away with payments, but that's another matter entirely. Another approach is to accept a down payment of 50% before beginning your work, and then accepting the rest of the payment upon completion. It's also useful to type up a contract or some form of written agreement, to make sure you and the payee are on the same page. Additionally, keeping records of your conversations as a paper trail is strongly recommended.
All in all, there are a lot of "starving artists" out there because we constantly under-sell ourselves.
Hopefully this post is useful to you, and/or your artistic friends.
Also feel free to share your experiences and add your input! We can all learn from each other.