It seems to be a blight within any creative industry that there is a request for free work in exchange for a vague notion of exposure. No matter the size of the company or individual making the request, artists are expected to work for free in order to get their work seen by a wider audience and whiff of potentially paid work in the future. There should be more ventures where artists that are trying to make a living are given greater exposure in a paid setting, but unfortunately this is not the norm. Some companies do offer the chance for artists to get paid and gain greater exposure for their work, and this is hopefully something that will grow in popularity in years to come, as art and culture is vitally important to us all.
Most artists, whatever medium they work in, will likely have a day (or a night) job to go alongside their creative endeavours. This changes when they reach the top of their profession but for the majority it is the reality of life. Most will have been offered the chance to work for free in return for exposure, but here are a few reasons why they shouldn’t accept, even if it seems appealing at the time.
A Professional is Paid – If you are at the very beginning of your life as an artist you will be expected to work from the bottom up, as in any profession. The key word here is profession though. If you have aspirations to make this your working life you have to get paid. It might take you years to get paid enough to make it a full time gig, but to not get paid at all means you are firmly an amateur.
Self-Fulfilling Cycle of Free Work – Those artists who are willing to work for free might get some exposure to their work, but most will find that the immediate consequence is that they are then offered more work prospects where they won’t be paid for their time and efforts. It is hard to shake the tag as the artist who will work for nothing and won’t help you achieve your long-term dreams and aspirations.
You Pay for Most Services – If you need financial advice and visit an accountant, or call a plumber to fix a problem in your home, you would expect to pay them for their knowledge and experience. Even though being an artist is a joyful experience and vocation it is your time and hard work in much the same way as anyone else performing their job role. If you’d pay someone to fix your toilet, why shouldn’t they pay you for a piece of art to go on their bathroom wall?
Don’t Lose Money – Of course, if you’re getting paid nothing for your work you are actually losing money. That time could be spent on earning money, plus you have to add in the cost of materials. You need to earn a living to pay the bills and stay clothed and fed, don’t lose money on something you love as it may end up costing you your passion.