My friend shared this video to warn other artists about how she was taken advantage of, and I believe this is a very important message that every artist should hear.
I’ve lost count of how many times someone, be it a big corporation or an individual, have asked me to illustrate for them for free. It will always go something like this “You draw this for us, and we will include your name in the credits. That’s good publicity for you!” as if such a pathetic offer holds any merit.
There was one specific case where a guy wanted to use my drawing as a book cover but didn’t want to pay. He said he might print up to 50,000 books, so that’s like an amazing offer of 50,000 views for me right? Wrong. 50,000 is nothing. We live in the information revolution. Don’t forget we have places like Deviantart, tumblr, and all those social networking sites. Sharing art, like sharing any information, has never been easier. You don’t have to degrade yourself for some disrespectful publisher to get you art seen.
I know many young artists feel insecure about themselves. Being an artist is not a profession that easily guarantees employment, but that doesn’t mean you should let others take advantage of you. Don’t work for free to get “experience” or “publicity”. The only time you should be working for free is for yourself, friends, or a charity. And by working for yourself I mean work on your own projects. If you’re not getting paid either way, then draw what you want, not what others want. At least this way, the name you built is for yourself, not whatever company that’s just using you.
For example, when I drew my first comic, 1000 Words and posted it online for everyone to read for free, I didn’t get a single penny, but I gained a lot of viewers. And that was real publicity where my name is the creator’s name, not some tiny add in amongst of a list of helpers. I did the same with my other comics, projects I wanted to draw, and it wasn’t long before publishers started contacting me. Now that little flash comic I posted online years ago can be ordered on Amazon. And honestly, we don’t even need publishers anymore since it’s so easy to self publish these days. Just post your work online, and if enough people like it, then use Kickstarter to get your work published.
So respect yourself. Charge for what your’re worth. Take commissions and make sure you get paid enough for it. If you’re working on anything for free to gain publicity, make sure it’s your own projects or a charity you believe in. Right now, the mentality of those people who believe we are worthless persists because we don’t stand up for ourselves. When one artist rejects them for not paying, they’ll just go to another artist until they find one with low self-esteem. Don’t be that one low self-esteemed artist who lets them keep that kind of mentality. No body goes to a lawyer, doctor, etc expecting their services to be free, so why should they expect that of us?
Lastly, remember why you became an artist. It’s probably not for the money, it’s to bring your own visions to life. Don’t let the anxiety of finding a job get in the way of that. Do what you love, work on it passionately, and share your work with the world. Once enough people have seen your passion, and it will take a few years so start early and be patient, then the money problem will solve itself.
Take care! :)