For free or not for free?

OK, so rarely do I rant in my blogs but I’ve noticed an increasing trend in the world of the freelance artist/designer that is quite disturbing, particularly on art job sites….you know, the ones where you search through bazillions of jobs that match your key words and skills and bid against literally hundreds of other artists, many who completely undersell themselves thus undermining the value of our work??  You know what I mean, artists, right?  I’m sure other fields of employment deal with this too, but being an artist I can only speak from my own experiences.

Now I have gotten some great freelance work from these sites and am very grateful for them but two things really aggravate the hell out of me:

1. The “Under Value-er” referred to above, these are the people who are willing to do hours of art/design work for pennies and severely under sell everyone thus under valuing what we artists do!  Some of the “people” bidding under this guise on the freelance sites are actually graphic design companies who outsource their work to designers, and most likely pay them poverty wages for the work they do…the companies  get so many jobs due to their extremely low prices so I guess they can afford to do this as it’s quantity not necessarily quality for the most part (I’ve seen complaints & not-so-great reviews posted).  I’m sure a lot of the work they do is satisfactory or even good for the client who doesn’t know much about design or marketing and just wants a computer generated, typical and slick-looking image, but choosing an artist with art education and unique creativity for a bit more money can only be a benefit to a business.  Sadly some people don’t realize this and go for the cheap fix.  Luckily a few of the job sites actually prevent this from happening by not allowing the freelancer to bid below a certain price, thus keeping the competition fair but unfortunately not many sites do this.

2. The “Free Sampler”…to me, one of the most annoying offenders on the freelance job sites!  Now would you go into a store and take a shirt and say “I’m going to wear this for a while then decide if I like it enough to pay for it?”  Or would you go into a restaurant and expect them to give you free food samples to decide if you want to pay to eat there?  I think not!  So why do so many potential art/design clients ask us artists to do FREE WORK SAMPLES especially when we’ve already provided them with our portfolios, resumes and relevant past work samples so they can see the quality and style of our work??!!  What’s to stop them from stealing our ideas from the rough sketches they require without signing a contract with us or securing any deposit money?  And then they argue with you when you politely say this is not the way things are done….I mean why are artists expected to spend their time, energy and creativity creating free samples with no guarantee of pay and when it’s already too easy to rip off our work given how we must post it on so many sites on the internet, etc., that to just be expected to hand over free samples…no matter how “simple and easy” the client says the work will be,  is beyond me!  What other employee is expected to work for free in other fields unless it’s a volunteer position?  Artists pay for their education, art and computer supplies, marketing supplies and our time and creativity are valuable as well.  When you hire us to design a company logo, don’t you want the best image that will be successful for your brand?  Why is this an area where people think spending $20 on an image that will forever represent their company and that they can reproduce and make money off of endlessly is not worth more than a few dollars??  Now this is not always the case but I see it all too often on every freelance site I am on, which is many.

There is art EVERYWHERE!  It’s in advertising for every product…it’s in the design of the product itself!  Art is in media, publishing, advertising…it’s in the menu from the restaurant, it’s the pattern design on your clothes, it’s the covers on your books, it decorates homes and businesses, it moves us & teaches us history and culture in galleries and museums, it’s on the websites people look at…it is literally everywhere and very important so PLEASE….don’t under value art and the artists that create it!  Rant ended.  Thanks for reading and for understanding!  Feel free to comment with any of your art related rants and experiences here….we can all learn from each other and make the art community a stronger place!

10 thoughts on “For free or not for free?

  1. magnasubrosa says:

    I get that all the time, especially with photo-shootings!

    • laurencurtis says:

      I can imagine! How do you handle those situations?

      • magnasubrosa says:

        Quite frankly, I feel very uncomfortable (hate confrontations), but I do try to analyse the costs involved from my end, material, travel expenses, time, possible other freelance jobs I’d have to reject, and I throw the ball back to them to see if they can add value to their offer. In the end, value and worth are two entirely different things. 🙂

  2. Arnette says:

    Great article, you made some good points Lauren.

  3. laurencurtis says:

    Good points, magnasubrosa. I also always give the client the opportunity to come up with a fair payment offer but many just want freebies or to pay below minimum wage for original work and that’s when I refuse the job…it wouldn’t be fair to me or the other clients who pay me fairly for my work. 🙂

  4. Mel says:

    I’ve always said I think you are stronger & more resilient than I am, for depending on your life’s passion as your livelihood. Keep the faith, you’re the best artist I’ve ever seen. Love, hugs & blessings to you & your prosperity!

  5. Ron says:

    What you have pointed out has been a long standing problem with artists and the art community. I agree with your comments 100%. I have worked in many mediums, from stained glass to oil, acrylic and watercolor painting. I have sold very little. We even had a stained glass co-op years ago where some of the glass artists would almost give their art away to make the money for the rent. I most cases, I must admit, the public doesn’t appreciate the training, time, work, and materials that go into a piece of art. It can be a difficult profession. I’m now back to one of my lifelong passions, photography. I don’t expect to make money with that since there are literally millions of people with digital cameras out there. I do it for the love of it. I show my work on my blog at and on Pinterest. That’s it. I’ve basically given up on traditional art. I haven’t held a brush in my hands for about two years. I may go back to it someday, but right now, I’m not sure. I wish you the best of luck and fortune in your art. Your site is beautiful.

    • laurencurtis says:

      Thanks for your comment and your kind words! You also make great points. While I have not given up on pursuing the arts as a career I am sticking to my guns about not giving away free samples (my art is not equivalent to selling cocktail weenie samples in the supermarket!)to clients who say they want to hire me but obviously don’t respect the time, skill and energy it take to create work to meet their standards and that they can use indefinitely to earn money. I do, however, give discounts to those who are good supporters and deserve a break on repeat purchases…just good businesses. So, the struggle continues but if artists do not cave in, even out of desperation for work, then hopefully the way potential buyers view us will change for the better. Good luck with your photography!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s