Please stop asking me to work for free.

Originally I hadn’t planned on posting this week and instead wanted to focus on my upcoming wedding this weekend, but there’s something that’s been bothering me that I need to get off my chest.

Please stop asking me, and other creatives, to work for free (or less than minimum wage).

I received numerous requests for custom art during the holiday season. I love doing original pieces for people and enjoyed the few I had time to make. Unfortunately for every reasonable request there were five not so reasonable. Now, that’s not to say I expect every single person to know what a custom piece of art is going to cost. You’re allowed to ask and then (politely) walk away if my work is not within your price range. The thing I take issue with is the extensive bartering attempts or when someone tries to explain to me why they believe my art should be cheaper. This especially gets under my skin when it’s a company asking for work.

Credit: Lauren Hom
Image Credit: Lauren Hom

There was one email exchange I had where someone insisted that $60 was more than enough for three 18 x 20 inch, full color, original watercolor pieces because that’s the price she would pay for prints at say, HomeGoods. First off, I don’t know about that. I’ve seen the home decor they sell at Marshall’s and it’s not cheap. Secondly, those are prints. They are not original pieces that were conceived, sketched and painted specifically for your needs and your needs only. If I paint a picture of your newborn I’m not going to be able to make any prints and sell them to make back money.

This extends into all areas of being in a creative field and it’s extremely frustrating. I don’t know many other careers (all types of writers and artists know what I’m saying) where you’re consistently asked to work for exposure or way less than what you’re worth. You wouldn’t ask the person who does your taxes to work for exposure or a doctor to treat you because you’ll give them credit at a large event. That’s because you know they’ve gone to school or trained for years to be able to be the best at what they do. It doesn’t matter how long it takes them or if it seems (seems being key here) easy, because it’s a skill and skills take lots of financial and time commitments to master.

You’re not just paying for the art I give you, it’s all the commitments I made and paid for to get to the point I can create something that you enjoy.

Blogger and artist Lauren Hom has discussed this recently and has lots of great advice about how to gain exposure without working for free (totally check her blog out by clicking here). Side projects (like my 52 pieces in a year project) are great ways to go about it and she has lots of tips on how to be successful. In 2017, I’ll be doing several side projects, starting with a short term one for Fun-A-Day which you’ll learn about next week!

The key thing Lauren says that I want to remind myself and all other creatives is that by accepting offers for less than what we’re worth, we’re telling other creatives it’s okay and for companies to think it’s acceptable. It’s not. You went to school, trained, practiced and earned your way here like everyone else and you deserve to get paid appropriately.

And with that, I’m going to go enjoy my wedding week.

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