I find it fascinating that artists are so often expected to supply their skills for free. I have just received a mail offering an ‘opportunity’ for me to design a corporate logo. There’s a long list of expectations: high quality, clear design, visually strong in colour and monochrome etc. In short, all the things you would expect from a corporate client. The sting is at the end of the tail: ‘we have no budget for this work, but would welcome designs from artists looking to have their work published’.
I’d like to say that this was an exceptionally cheeky effort, but sadly it’s all too common. We live in a society all too ready to ask if art is a ‘proper job’ while undermining our attempts to earn the money to make it so. I wonder why it is that the idea of ‘being published’ or ‘good for your CV’ is seen as a substitute for cash. I’ve tried it with my plumber and funnily enough he wouldn’t service the boiler on that basis. Perhaps artists are expected to live on the rarefied air of creativity alone, but I for one need filthy commerce to buy a ham sandwich now and again.
It’s easy starting out to see any work of any kind as a fantastic opportunity and to go for this kind of job. The trick is to do the maths: if I’m not getting paid then I make it a rule that I get at least the value of my work and time back in concrete benefit and that doesn’t mean a vague promise about publishing or a line on my CV. I would urge you to do the same if you are in a dilemma about a freebie. You should bear in mind that being up front about the benefit to you with the client is good business practice and a decent client will respect you for it. It also helps all artists by helping to reinforce the fact that we’re not mugs and our skills have a market value. Leave the peanut payers to the monkeys with the poster paints.
That’s not to rule out doing things for love. One of the nicest things about having a skill, be it printmaking, heart surgery or repairing shoes, is that sometimes you can just give it away and make someone else’s day. The watch word there is love. That has to be earned and I’m a long way off loving the company after a free logo…