By Carolyn Edlund
Should artists work for free? There are a lot of people out there who seem to think so. This attitude hurts the business of art and can destroy self-confidence.
The term “free” certainly doesn’t apply when it comes to the cost of getting an art education. College tuition costs at art schools are among the highest out there and yet job prospects are dismal, which begs the question, “Is art school even worth it?”
During college, if art majors do manage to get an internship, it will most likely be unpaid.
It’s no secret to most self-employed artists that starting a small business and getting traction is a major challenge. Money can be tight, so artists frequently look for suggestions on how to save.
Etsy recently published an article geared towards artists called “How to Organize a Photo Shoot on a Tight Budget”. It contains the appalling suggestion of getting “student photographers to work for free, just for the experience” and then outlines a seven-hour schedule to put them on. This unthinking attitude suggests that artists eat their own, and have little regard for the value of other artists.
No wonder artists learn from this type of behavior that their work is not valuable, and that they do not deserve payment.
To make matters worse, there is the never-ending parade of solicitations requesting artists to donate their work. I have some questions on this topic. Do the people requesting donations ever actually make a purchase from the artists they are soliciting? And do those people work for free themselves?
It’s hard to escape this unfortunately prevalent attitude, when even supposed job creators disregard the value of the work product that artists create.
As artists, we must have the self-respect and presence of mind to not buy into the widely held belief that art isn’t work, and that our time isn’t valuable. Don’t buckle under to pressure to give your work or time away for free. Honor your talent, your time, and your art, and don’t undervalue yourself. You deserve better.
Have you been asked to work for free? How did that make you feel? What was your response?