Friar’s Artist Tips: Don’t be a Sucker

Painting isn’t “real work”, is it?   It’s more like play-time…a hobby to pass the time.  After all, it’s not a “real job” like the guy who plows your driveway or the mechanic who fixes your car.  So why should you get paid for it?

Sound familiar?  This is what I get a lot of.  Mabye not in so many words, but the unspoken message is loud and clear.  We’d like some of your artwork, Friar, only we dont’ want to pay you.   You should happy enough that we’re allowing your painting to hang in our house, so please fork over your hard-earned work.

My first experience of this was at my old job.  Our company hockey team wanted me to design a logo for their team jersey.  I was quite flattered at this, and I said I’d start working at it.  When I proudly announced this to my art teacher, her response was somewhat suprising.

“OH…?, she asked sarcastically.  “…they’re LETTING you design a logo for them?   How much are they paying you for it?  Do you know how much it costs to have a professional graphic artsit design a logo?    Around $750 to $1000.”  

Wow.  I was somewhat shocked:  not only to hear how much my skills were potentially worth, but how much I was being taken advantage of.

Well, I knew I couldn’t really ask $1000 for a logo from co-workers, but I thought it would be fair if I got at least something in return for all my work. Just a token of appreciation.  So I told the team captian: 

“I dont’ want any money, but when you get the jerseys made up, just order an extra one for me.”

The answer was “Uh, I dunno, Friar.  These jerseys costs $50.  I’ll have to consult with the rest of the team.”

And sure enough, they voted to NOT give me a jersey.  It was too much money.    I think the guys were actually a bit miffed at me.

Think about this, for a second.  All it would have taken is every team member to chip in an extra $5, in exchange for me doing 6-8 hours of work for them.   And they wouldn’t even miss the money, considering they routinely blew $40-50 after each hockey game getting hammered at the local bar.   But they still wouldn’t give me a Jersey.  Cheap Bastards.  

Needless to say, I politely declined, and they eventually suckered in another co-worker to do the logo for free.

Another perfect example of almost being suckered came in from a former classmate.  I was visiting and she asked if I’d like to paint her kid’s bedroom.    After all, I was an artist.  They thought I might enjoy painting their sons room forest green, with trees and animals.  By the way, Friar, here is the page from bedtime story book we want you to make the room look like.

When I saw what she wanted, I realized this was quite an undertaking that would take days (if not weeks) of committment.   I mentionned that I didn’t usually do “commission work”.

“Oh, it’s NOT commission work…we wouldn’t be paying you”.

They wouldn’t be paying me.   

Un.  Freaking.  Believable.  

Would anyone ask a professional house painter to come in and paint their bedroom for free?   Certainly not.   But here are my friends (a double-income family, at that), asking me to not only paint a room, but to make it an artistic mural.   For FREE. 

(Ummm…let me get back to you on that, okay?) 

My advice is to watch yourself whenever you get asked to do commission work.    Don’t sell yourself short, and never, EVER do anything for free. The world is full of people who dont’ take your art seriously, and they’re only too glad to try to take advantage of you.  

Not that is dosen’t mean you cant’ give your stuff away as gifts, or do favors to friends.  But do it because you WANT to, not because you feel pressured or you feel you “have to”.   I’d rather have an unsold painting sit in a closet for a few years,  rather than sell it at a discount tomorrow and get ripped off.

Another hint is to never sell or give away your best work (but that’s another Friar Artist Tip for later…)  


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2 Comments on “Friar’s Artist Tips: Don’t be a Sucker”

  1. brettlegree Says:

    I experienced that with a computer business a few years ago. Time and again, people would come to you asking for you to “save their computer” and I’d give them the rates up front.

    Usually I’d fudge the numbers even, keeping the cost for service quite reasonable in my opinion – charging for 1.5 hours instead of the 6 it actually took.

    And then, I’d either hear:

    1. “I know some kid who said he’d do this for $20” – fine, give him a call, but don’t ever call me again. I guarantee my work is better.


    2. “The big box computer store said they’d fix it for $75” – and their definition of “fix” is to reformat the computer, and you lose all of your photos.

    You’re totally on the money. Do it because you want to do it. At some point, someone will come along and pay you what you’re worth.

  2. Friar Says:

    Hey Brett.

    Wow…that’s actually suprising because I though that bad customer attitude was reserved only against artists.

    It’s what we were discussing the other day. Maybe we gotta charge MORE…(people are probalby less likely to question $100 an hour than they would $25).

    I should write an editorial about this in the Splat Creek Bugle and try to rile up some more seniors (heh heh heh)

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