I Wish I Had Written This

To those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world

Every day, there are more and more CL posts seeking “artists” for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service.

But what they’re NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be.

To those who are “seeking artists”, let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? …none?

More than likely, you don’t know any. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be posting on craigslist to find them.

And this is not really a surprise.

In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field.

So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street?

Would you offer a neurosurgeon the “opportunity” to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him “a few bucks” for “materials”. What a deal!)

Would you be able to seriously even CONSIDER offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

If you answered “yes” to ANY of the above, you’re obviously insane. If you answered “no”, then kudos to you for living in the real world.

But then tell me… why would you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks?

Graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person. In short, it makes you look like a twit.

A few things you need to know;

1. It is not a “great opportunity” for an artist to have his work seen on your car/’zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a “great opportunity” for YOU to have their work there.

2. It is not clever to seek a “student” or “beginner” in an attempt to get work for free. It’s ignorant and insulting. They may be “students”, but that does not mean they don’t deserve to be paid for their hard work. You were a “student” once, too. Would you have taken that job at McDonalds with no pay, because you were learning essential job skills for the real world? Yes, your proposition it JUST as stupid.

3. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their “portfolio”. They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

4. Stop thinking that you’re giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

5. Students DO need “experience”. But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the “experience” they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen?

If you your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

6. (This one is FOR the artists out there, please pay attention.) Some will ask you to “submit work for consideration”. They may even be posing as some sort of “contest”. These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by many artists seeking to win the “contest”, or be “chosen” for the gig, and find what they like most. They will then usually have someone who works for them, or someone who works incredibly cheap because they have no originality or talent of their own, reproduce that same work, or even just make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will NOT be paid, you will NOT win the contest. The only people who win, here, are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This is speculative, or “spec”, work. It’s risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely. For more information on this subject, please visit www.no-spec.com.

So to artists/designers/illustrators looking for work, do everyone a favor, ESPECIALLY yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are “spec” gigs, or just some guy who wants a free mural on his living room walls. They need you. You do NOT need them.

And for those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world. The only thing you’re accomplishing is to insult those with the skills you need. Get a clue.

DISCLAIMER: Apparently this well written post has been floating around on CraigsList. I first ran across it when Steph Doyle’s post I Wish I Had Written This came across my google alerts.

Steph got it from HOWmag forum where Cal posted before they could take it off CL (thanks Cal!).

The attempts to locate the author have failed. If you are the author, please contact us.

Edit: The author is Dave D’Esposito of ArtMonkey Studios, Inc.

65 thoughts on “I Wish I Had Written This”

  1. This is well worded! I wish I had this information 10 years ago, but in graphic design you definately learn. This same theory works for those artists in construction.

  2. This is a wonderful article. I have never done a do it for free job but have been approached often with similar offers. It is insulting, but what I have found worse is some artists do them. When artist accept these do it for free jobs they reconfirm in the minds of potential clients that artists are a dime a dozen and stupid to boot. I like the attempt to educate the business people to value our rarity, however it comes down to the artist maintaining his her integrity by turning down such offers. I know from personal experience how hard it can be to make a living as an artist and how tempting any offer at all can be at times. However never do it for free it doesnt work.

  3. A friend emailed this text to me today. I feel like portions were pulled directly from my head because my thoughts and feelings are so similar to the authors. I hope he is located because we all need to let him know what a brilliant piece of writing this is, and this is definitely an important topic for all of us in this field to take note of and hopefully act upon.

    Things really do need to change.

  4. Wow! This has spread like wild fire. Who thought when I reposted the contents of the unknown author on the HOW forum and other design sites, it would take off like this? This thing is all over net and on Designer blogs.

    The author speaks the truth. I don’t expect non-designers/creatives to understand. That is why NO!SPEC is here to educate. It doesn’t matter if we suck or not. It’s about getting a fair price for our professional creative services.

    – Cal

  5. Thank God, I wish this was posted all over the web! I am a graphic artist with over 25 years experience, and can not find a decent job in or around Atlanta! My proficiency in Mac and PC tools (applications!) is excellent, but companies want to pay $10.00 for a skill that few people have the ability or patience to master. I’m just glad someone put it out there for others to read! THANK YOU!!!!
    By the way, the 11th item down on right side of this site under MIND THE SPEC is wrong!!!! ORGANIZATIONS….its a z not an s!!! Come on!

  6. Hello Ray,

    This is a great article isn’t it. I wish I knew the person who wrote it so I can credit them in the article I’m writing up.

    As for the “miss-spelling” this is an International spelling of Organisation. It is intentionally spelled this way because this site is after all International.

    best,

    ~Danita Reynolds

  7. Danita, bearing in mind “no-spec” has forced some sites to close down and some sites / pages naturally just dissapear once they served their purpose, it is hard to post a link… However, here is one for you that should be enough to validate my point.:

    http://forums.about.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=14&nav=messages&webtag=ab-graphicdes&tid=18718
    Contest pulled due to hate mail from no spec fan boys.

    Dispite what you may believe, I knew about the developments of this site from the about.com forums before the site even went live. I know /knew alot of the designers there too.

    I’ve seen the webdesigns they’ve posted for critq. on the forums, which were of poor quality and were given to their clients for pay, which to me is worse than so called spec contests. It even worse when they act like hypocrits, support no spec and doing unethical work /low moral.

    No-spec follows the patterns of trolling. This article above, on the site I read it asked people to spam it on CL every day.

    As to the logo, no I can not prove it was done contest style but I know it was done by a member of the about.com fourms and not the owner of this site. He never got paid for it. “helping out a good cause” is fine, its a shame no-spec fan boys /no-spec are the only exception to this rule.

    3. Most people that are actually doing a genuine good cause no not need to advertise themselfs or their services on the site. They do it just for the good cause. The sponsor link just proves how many people are “supportive” of no spec by happily taking in lots of incomming traffic

    Yeh thought so. Quite alot of them dont even bother linking to you. They probabily have an article about no spec, just to fill their “news” posting for a week.

    Oh, and as to my name, does that matter? Anonymity allows people to speak the truth and confidance, and quite frankly I dont want no-spec fan boys harrassing me on other sites :)

    Of course, not all the artist are talentless… exaggeration…

  8. Dear Me,

    Thank you for posting the one link. It was refreshing for me to reread and is educational for others to read the battle-of-the-logos thread. I do recall that there were no stats coming from that site during that process so that to us proves that NO!SPEC wasn’t being linked. I also remember we were all very baffled by the lack of proof on the owner’s part (as you can see from the thread). Whatever supposed hate mail the owner was getting I guess wasn’t good enough to prove his point. One does have to wonder about the character and integrity of the owner. I’m afraid whatever point you were trying to make isn’t being found at the link you posted.

    As you can see from NO!SPEC’s site, its endeavors have been successful in educating people about speculative work and have helped MANY competitions comply with the industry standards. You can find such Industry Standards posted on many industry organizations GAG, AIGA, RGD, GDC, Proscodi, ASJA, AGDA, CSD, APDF, BDI, CDF, CSD, DBA, DC, DIA, DINZ, and the list goes on. (http://www.no-spec.com/design-organisations-their-stance/)

    It is quite apparent that NO!SPEC isn’t preaching anything new. What NO!SPEC is doing is making it publicly known to people about these existing standards by taking a stance in support of these standards. And quite frankly it is working. For the first time ever our Industry is being heard and is getting the respect which it deserves.

    The whole middle part of your post made no sense to me until I figured out that you had suddenly without warning switched subjects. First we were talking about NO!SPEC and then you switched to ranting about bad website designs in a critique section on a popular forum. Your train of thought is quite an exercise to follow but I’ll try to keep up.

    As for the logo it was done pro-bono. Do you know what the word “pro-bono” means? It is derived from latin meaning “for the public good.” It is used to designate legal or other professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment, as a public service. As you can see it isn’t just about the Design Industry. Many services offer pro-bono. As for your comment about the owner of the NO!SPEC site. NO!SPEC isn’t owned by one person alone but owned by everyone who has contributed to it. Check out the list. It is impressive.

    Ok. I thought I was doing pretty good so far in keeping up with your switch-thinking but I’m just not sure why you are now talking about supporters and what they do on their own sites. Your exact words “They probabily have an article about no spec, just to fill their “news” posting for a week.” Huh, you’ve lost me. I fail to see how this contributes to hate mail which was your original concern.

    I’m afraid by hiding behind your anonymity with no proof to support your (false) accusations makes you look rather untrustworthy. People believe those who stand by their name and show them proof. Apparently you have neither.

    By the way Anonymity is derived from Greek and originally meant “without law.”

    This will be my last post to you.

  9. Danita,

    I’m sure I clearly said that some sites have closed down /removed their postings, all of which is acceptable and natural accurance on the web. This makes it difficult to track certain situations that I personally know of where No!spec and /or it’s supporters have “gone over the line” by pretty much spamming comment boxes with a link to no spec.com. Do you honestly think I keep a record of all the sites you spam? I left the about.com forums because it got overrun by nospec bullshit.

    You can search the about.com graphicdesign forums yourself and read up on some of the no-spec postings. It becomes apparant that quite alot of people can’t tell the difference to “real” spec work to “fake spec work, with users posting about a charitable t-shirt design contest, another about “worth1000.com” and more!

    You can argue that the two last examples there, that in the end it was considered acceptable, though quite sad they were even brought up as possibly “unacceptable” in the first place… Especially wworth1000.com. However, this illustrates a number of things, mostly how easily it is for someone to misinterepret something as valid spec. Also I don’t think it would be wrong to say this somewhat proves alot of people “jump the gun” thus my comment about spam isnt too far off.

    You shouldn’t get me wrong, I believe in ‘Nospec’, but I personally don’t like how this site is run, and how it is incouraging people to spam, while you do not directly tell people to spam, you are incouraging them them “spread the word” thus people are posting in websites/ places they should be, harrassing people, sending hate mail and so on.

    You think I was switching subjects, but it was very much on the same topic. Think of it this way, If i was a serial killer and I then set up a site about howw bad killing is and how we should also make peace /love I would be a hypocrit, right? The example with the website is showing that there are alot of designers here who are selling certain services /design when they shouldn’t and we can safely call this “unethical”. Yet, I see them setting up a no-spec site claiming how it is ripping off designer from their hard earn cash when, your not providing an acceptable level of design?

    Yes I’m very clear what pro-bono is. I also said the fact it was made for “free” didnt bother me. It was the fact that No-spec has sent “no-spec” e-mails to certain places like charities, yet… Last time i checked a charity asking people to help raise fund was quite an acceptable practice even if it envolves a competition to design t-shirts, which would the be sold, didnt take away every contestants right to their designs and actually rewarded a designer with a small sum, but a sum none the less.. See where i’m going here?

    You can continue to comment how hard it is to read my “switch-thinking” as an excuses to avoid properly answering anything, you can continue to claim no-spec doesnt spam, and all it’s fan boys. If you think I come here to make (first of all just one comment) as somedemonic plot to ruine no-spec.com’s reputation you can believe that, but as it stand I far more interesting things to do than to prove what I say to the people I’m accusing… As if i expected you to own up to anything in the first place :)

  10. Dear Me,

    In regards to your recent forum debate with Danita Reynolds, I find myself quite amused. Despite not knowing all of the facts, I find it nearly impossible not to respond. Although tongue-in-cheek comments can be rather entertaining, the direct approach can be much more effective. To put it plainly, your comments are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors of the worst kind! “Incouraging”? “Hypocrit”? “Somedemonic”? “It even worse when they act like hypocrits”???

    To understand the kind of distress such errors cause me, imagine the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.

    Perhaps you feel that ensuring proper grammar is unnecessary and only a trifling matter. However, I beg to differ. By neglecting your spelling and grammar you have inadvertently implied some rather incriminating things about yourself.

    a. That you don’t really know what you’re talking about.
    b. That you are a lazy thinker, and quite possibly a lazy person in general.
    c. That you are sorely lacking in education.

    With this in mind, how on Earth do you expect anyone to take your comments seriously? I am quite impressed by Danita’s ability to maintain some level of decorum in responding to your comments. In future, you may wish to do the same. If you are going to submit such long diatribes, at least take some time to collect your thoughts and read over what you have written; even go as far as to get someone else to read things over for you. Buy a dictionary, a thesaurus, or a pocket book on grammar – anything, please!

    Proper grammar and good manners seem to be dying “arts”, and I refuse to let them go without a fight!

    Regards,
    Zuri

    nb. I am quite aware that English may not be your first language (although your overall use of the language indicates otherwise). If this is the case, I still recommend that you have someone read over what you have written first – ideally someone who is well-versed in the English language.

  11. Well said, Zuri. I was about to chastise “Me” for that. And yes, Danita touched briefly on another point that apparently escaped “Me” and that is the difference between pro bono work and spec work. Any designer or other artist or professional is always free to decide whether he or she wishes to undertake pro bono work for a certain charity, because he or she wants to beef up his/her portfolio or perhaps just because he/she feels it is a worthy cause. This is very different from (1) undertaking spec work in the hopes that one’s creation is chose and that one gets paid; and (2) contracting for services and having the client decide on a whim not to pay.

    The scenario that this site deals with, and exceptionally well I might add, is the specter (no pun intended) of getting something for nothing, speculative work. Someone hold my drink while I climb down from my soapbox. :)

  12. Yes, we live in a world where many others either expect us (as artists, writers, etc.) to do our work for free, or utterly devalue our work. I once had a patron at one of my art openings ‘re-value’ the price of one of my pieces at McDonalds wages. He, a doctor, was incensed when I tried to do the same to him.

    That said, for those of us who do our work (in whatever discipline) it is spec work until it is paid work. We do it for the love of it–we do not expect therefore to have to ‘give it away’ just because it is our calling.

    And on another the other front written about… The Film Industry. If you need people to work for credit, you are building a relationship with those you work with. Be prepared to give something back to them (working on Their Project).

    And finally, I agree that if you are asking for free (credit), remember that you normally get what you pay for Unless you have a working agreement up front, with a legally binding contract for later division of any profit. Nice and clean. No free lunches (usually cheetos and spring water).

    Oh, and I hope it goes without saying… NO SPAM directed to my email. No Flaming either.

  13. What a great article!

    I am a photographer and I just turned down an “opportunity” to be the photographer for a bunch of Alumnus from Addison, TX where they drive Beamers and live in exclusive upscale homes and apartments…but they had “no money provided by the college” to pay me for my services. I am trained and have invested tons of money in equipment….so what the heck is the deal????

    Even my TIME should be worth something!

    That reminds me. A woman that works a full time executive job AND sings JAZZ in clubs around town on the weekends, saw my website and wanted to pay me to come down to her house (25 miles away) and build her a website. She ALSO didn’t have any money to spare. When pressed, she offered me $25.00

    What an insult!!

    B

  14. Amen! Accepting assignments with no pay just makes the expectations of greedy employers reality. This hurts us all.

    I can do work for free all day long — there is no end to requests from friends, family, etc., to create this or that. And I do some of this — usually these jobs are fun, short-term and enjoyable. But sitting in a cubicle taking on more and more stress and responsibililty w/o pay and benefits, in hopes of getting “discovered” or offered a permanent position is crazy!
    It’s the “why buy milk when you’re getting it for free” syndrome.

    Let’s respectfully educate employers about what we do: we are not typesetters or “internet people”, as I’ve seen graphic designers and web designers called. Let’s be professional about it declining to work for free.

    Be appreciative and respectful as we firmly decline the offer then move on. After all, creatives are often the nicest people around. That’s one reason I love what I do. Let’s keep it that way, for all our sakes!

  15. Amen! (…and I’m agnostic :)

    I shall hand a copy of this to any and all who attempt to purloin my services in the noted fashion. I believe it was written somewhere on this site, but I will reiterate (and paraphrase):

    A client is getting two things that I have, that when used, I cannot get back: my time and my ideas.

    Keep up the great work!

    Cheers!
    Lyle

  16. There is somthing missing in this argument and most of the comments and that is this.

    There are alot of people and alot of skill out there. It doesn’t matter if you are an artist or computer geek or a project manager. Most people if they spend the time it takes to learn a craft will be able to do the job. So there is no real shortage of artists, or any skill really. The good news is there is not shortage of work either. The real problem is why is it that everyone wants people to work and not get payed. Well the answer to that is simple as well. People will pay their rent but not for a piece of art there buddy or someone they know does. And when new money is created in the money supply it is not spend of any kind of program that includes research development or the arts it is handed to the individuals that do not buy anything real. So it never gets to your level. Convince the family that is owed 1% of your countries national debt that your cool looking art work is something he needs when he has walls full of paintings done by some impressionist.

    And the truth is that it is not why buy the milk when the milk is free it is that there is only a certain number of positions for artists if the general population has no disposable income to buy the products that you expect to get payed for doing the art assets for.

    *rant warning*

  17. What kills me is when they try to justify a damn job just by paying you a pittance. One recently figured out to be .093 cents per article! These were big articles, too. I wrote a cordial note asking them to clarify their “typo” and got a curt one in return. Whatever. Not going to waste my .093 cents running my head against that wall.

  18. As a writer, I understand the desire to be paid for one’s work but unknowns who are willing to write for free in exchange for being published. If a writer or an artist decides to give their work away, then I think rather than suggest that nobody ever not get paid for their work, you help them figure out when and why it is valuable to issue one’s work for free… Non-Profits are a great example.
    As a hot sauce maven, I get asked for “free samples” on a daily basis. In addition to my time and effort in “creating” my particular work of art, it costs me real money in ingredients and supplies; jars, lids, etc.

    I will “give” samples to customers, after they’ve purchased my product, but the “spec” is out of their pocket.

    Perhaps designers should do as other professionals do and learn how to ask for non-refundable deposits?

    Just a thought.

  19. the bigger problem is schools like school of visual arts in manhattan, nyc.

    they dont teach designers thier value to society. the overly depressed instructors dont make note that art is not a ‘valuable trade’ in this country. they dont tell them that if they dotn ‘nam up’ and group up, its just murder by numbers. so many foolish artists are knocking down doors to do free work because they are dying to get soemthing published. what they do not see is that they are leadign themselves headfirst into the “beggars proffession”- design. without designers, there are no magazine, trade show materials, posters, etc. x infinity.

    to be blunt, these designers need to grab thier own balls and realize that devaluing your art devalues other hardworking artists. if enough designers tell these companies to kiss thier asses they wouldtreat us with more respect, because we demand it, not begging for it.

    I am exiting the design field(8 years in) because of the way things are set up. its just disgusting. hearing about spec work makes me want to punch soemone in the face. tryign to impress marketing types with your design skills is a fools game, because they have no talent frame of reference, because they dont have any – they push papers. WE design.

    group up. form more co-op teams. support each other. forget your ‘lonely journey through the art world’. do good work and get paid for it.

    enough of this; weak minded artists are as much to blame as the industry peons taking advantage. defend your art to the teeth.

    ashworld.com

  20. Wow! I really needed to see this tonight! As a Web designer and President of a smaller Web hosting company, I think there are a few people I will be forwarding this to. ;)

  21. Thanks for the great article! It is so true. Added to this could be the Scam of Stay At Home Parenting. While my child and family have greatly benefitted from my choosing to stay home for eight years, I’m beginning to think my graphic design resume has taken a huge downward spiral.
    Attempting to keep up on the latest software, I tried freelancing from home. There are a few bad points about freelancing while staying at home. One, non art people think it means FREE! Two, many people think it’s a wonderful HOBBY I’ve taken up! Three, it’s not taken seriously as a resume filler.
    After applying to every graphic design job within a 50 mile radius for the past 7 months, I have received 2 interviews and 0 job offers.
    I like many others probably found this ad and looked because we feel maybe adding this no pay opportunity to our resume and portfolio will somehow fill in some blanks in the experience department.
    I hope your article gets across the far reaches of the earth, because it truly deserves recognition just like us artists do.

  22. Dear “Me”

    Man, first thing is you should realize that art, in ALL it’s forms is SUBJECTIVE music, film, art, whatever. As a PROFESSIONAL you should, at this point be able to tell the difference between YOUR OPION and REALITY.

    I know that I feel 99.8% of photographers do not meet my standards of what photographer’s should be able to producing in 2007 with the money they get paid and the innovations in technology. Point being, is the bar lower then my standards, yes, but who am I? nobody that matters, and this is my OPION, not fact. I can tell the difference between the two, so I don’t go on every photographic website and tell them they suck and there hacks and they all should work for free because if you at home take 200 pictures of someone your bound to get one useable picture.

    In reality i’ve seen people at home take 200 pictures and not get one good photo. Why? because there not photographers, there are little nuances and tricks that make the difference in a good photo as with any craft/art. Painting, dance, music, whatever. Design is no different and without knowing who you are I can’t say this is a fact, but there’s probably a very good chance YOUR work might not meet the STANDARDS of the working professionals in this threads. I could be wrong, because you hide, we will never know.

    Secondly, If it’s important enough for you to open your mouth, you should be ready to stand by it, right or wrong. You used the word integrity, try showing some. “I don’t want people to spam me!” get over yourself, I get stupid amounts of spam everyday. BFD!

    I’m not always right, I know this, you should learn it too.

    $

  23. It’s good that the post has its own unofficial official website, but you shouldn’t be branding it and encouraging public promotion. The post is powerful on it’s own and should continue to be privately forwarded within creative communities. However the brash and aggressive tone, not to mention poor use of language in the post makes it unsuitable for public consumption. Branding this message with an identity and creating this website/organization for it is infact counterprodcutive. Instead of debating the idea, critics may find it easier to attack this group and the people touting its flag, as demonstrated by previous commentary.

    Regarding the post itself, my position is that while it sounds good, it is based on some illusion that there are enough jobs for every designer and artist in the world . The creative industry has always been competitive, the situation on CL only shows how competitive it has become. People without the talent/experience to say “If you want good work, you have to pay for it” will simply have to find a way to break in and get ahead however they can.

  24. Wow! I really needed to see this tonight! As a Web designer and President of a smaller Web hosting company, I think there are a few people I will be forwarding this to. ;)

  25. Hi all! My name is Dave D’Esposito, and I am the original author of this post.
    When I first posted this on craigslist (New York, if memory serves) I did receive a few email responses to it. I asked anyone who responded to please keep the message going, as it kept getting flagged. (doubtless by those seeking work for free.)

    Still, I had NO IDEA it was going to spread as far and fast as it has, or receive the overwhelmingly positive response it has.
    I am dumbfounded, frankly.

    I can’t think of any way that I could possibly prove my authorship, to be honest. But then, I don’t really car much, either. What is important to me is that the message has spread, and that it seems to be resonating with my peers. (you gang)

    I sincerely thank each and every one of you that has helped this make the rounds, and greatly hope that you continue to do so.

    Thanks again!

    Dave D’Esposito
    ArtMonkey Studios, Inc.

  26. In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field.

    I could not disagree more; from a market standpoint, it’s not possible. For one thing, you need a license to be a neurosurgeon; consider the barriers to entry. You don’t need a license to call yourself a professional illustrator, just one paying client or a lot of nerve. The barriers to entry are curb high. Not to say such “professionals” equivocate to high end established illustrators but such is the case with low entry dilution of your craft. Until you can protect your trade by establishing criteria for an official designation of “professional illustrator” upon which everyone agrees to agree, this will always be the case. I have the same problem in my industry. It is an uphill battle. You have to get legislation passed in every single state, that your criteria of a “professional illustrator” cannot be used by anyone unless they comply with the standards of your craft. Art is nebulous, difficult to define but I wish you well and apt compensation for your work.

  27. Excellent article. I have recently written an article about the problems of people wanting free work myself. Although it is easy to say no to someone you don’t know, when the person asking for the free/cheap work is an existing client the problem becomes a little more difficult.

  28. HAAAAAAAAAA!!! i’m experiencing the same thing like BARBARA…scroll down a lil’ more to read here post abt this executive woman.

    one of my bl..y client, asked me to do a web for his home business doing party events and suchs. haaa.. the deal was he supposed to pay the 1st half of the payment first. but he PAID only 1/4 of the payment and demands ALOTTTT of things on his website!!! and told me he does not want to pay alot for a website. till’ now he’s delaying my workkkkkkkkkkkk, photos and web contents that he supposed to give me, till now (almost a month) didn’t even pass it to me. i call him. never answer his calls at all. i text him on his hp. never reply at ALL. i email him. never even reply my emails , all of them. so tell me wat shld i do??? i already finished 3/4 of his web!

  29. I read this post, and all I can think is: “This is sad.”

    It’s sad because apparently, all you care about is getting paid. Assuming that because someone might agree doing work for free is insane sounds like the saddest thing I have ever heard.

    Sure, there might be more neurosurgeons than artists, but I am fairly sure that nobody’s life has depended on artist’s work. So comparing a neurosurgeon to an artist is laughable at best.

    And what’s particularly sad about this whole deal is that a lot of tools used by web artists and 3D modellers, they happen to be open source. Made by people who got together and decided to make something good for free. If they had ever stopped to think like you, you wouldn’t have a lot of stuff, like Blender, Xara Xtreme, KToon, and many more. Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of computer programs that are used every day for purposes other than artistic ones. If they had ever stopped to think like you do, we wouldn’t have any of them.

    Programmers take on open source projects all the time. they take on them for multiple reasons. They like the project. They want to hone their programming skills. They like the idea of doing something for the community. They feel joy in working on a project, even if they won’t get any money out of it. Does that make programmers fools? Idiots? Stupids? Insane? I don’t think so. Yet that’s what you call anyone who is willing to do something for free. If you truly believe that, you’re either snobs, or really out of touch with reality.

    And what about all that people who do pro-bono work? Those guys who put on hours helping at, say, your local YMCA? They don’t get paid squat. They do it because they want to help. I’ve read about lawyers who work on their free time defending prostitutes and exploited people for free. If they were to think like you, they’d say “Hey, if you can’t pay my fee, then you can go to hell, I don’t care!” I could come up with hundreds of examples of people who take on jobs for free. For you, they’re stupids. Well, I for one believe that the world is a much better place because of them, and I would not like to live in a world populated by bitter, jaded people who think like you.

    Sure, if you don’t have a job, then taking on a pro-bono job is not an option. And sure, there are con men out there, trying to fool people. But those two situations aren’t exclusive to artists. Con artists are everywhere, just look at your “Spam” folder of your e-mail client. But saying that everyone who comes with an offer for a non-paying gig is a con artist, that’s delusional. Who’s really out of touch with reality here?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, there are lots of reasons why one person would be willing to work for free. And saying that someone who is willing to do such thing is a stupid, well, that just says a lot about you. And none of it is good.

  30. You have not understood what this is all about.

    Designers love giving back to the community.

    The majority of the designers I know love working Pro Bono.

    A lot of the designers I know give freely of Open Source projects.

    Pro Bono and Open Sourse are NOT spec.

    It’s as simple as that.

  31. From your front page: “If you are a non-profit, please, everyone knows that a non-profit doesn’t mean no money. You are getting paid and so is most everyone else working there. You just can’t show profits carried over from year to year or pay dividends and so on. Don’t forget, the people you are asking to do the work need profit to eat and pay bills. We are not part of your non-profit business model, like you, we expect to get paid for our work.” That is plain sad. You are explicitly saying that no artist should work on a non-profit organization, unless they get paid. That doesn’t sound like you want to “give back to the community.”

    In this article, you do compare an artist to a neurosurgeon, a car mechanic, and an IT programmer. That’s delusional. And it’s even sadder when I have actually seen doctors, mechanics, and programmers do work for free to help the community.

    If you truly mean that your message is not the bitter, jaded one that you’re currently showcasing, then you seriously need to either change the wording of your articles. Because as it stands, you are clearly stating that no artist should, under any circumstance, work for free. And that is just sad, and out of touch with reality.

  32. “And it’s even sadder when I have actually seen doctors, mechanics, and programmers do work for free to help the community.”
    Cite examples please.

  33. Check almost every open source development and you’ll find programmers who work for free.

    Lawyers are encouraged to at least work 50 hours pro-bono. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro_bono

    Most doctors do volunteer work. http://www.nejmjobs.org/career-resources/physician-volunteer.aspx

    Volunteer bike mechanic programs. http://www.usacycling.org/news/user/story.php?id=144

    I could go on…

    But see? That’s the point. Instead of thinking “Hey, maybe we aren’t doing something right here” you try to demean my point by claiming lack of examples.

  34. Maybe you should change your name to Mad? Settle down, I wanted to find out how disingenuous of a comparison you were making. If I would blindly read into what you were saying, I would be guilty of exactly what you accused me of in that post.

    Even as posted by no-spec, designers do participate in some pro-bono work. The other post above this blog-post I don’t agree with entirely, but lets face it, creating a logo for a business or designing a website for, say “Joe’s Discount Piano’s And Etc” is hardly a cause worth working for free on.

    Also, the volunteer mechanics program, according to your link, expose the mechanics to the latest technology. Who’s sending me my updated Macbook Pro or copy of CS3 when I’m doing someone’s brochure design, even if it’s usage is just temporary? Looks like an apples to oranges comparison of ‘volunteer’ work to me. You seem to only be looking at the word volunteer, and not the context given. Again, not all designers are against pro-bono, typically for charitable organizations, but you have to understand that contributing voluntarily as a doctor in the realm of public health is FAR different than completely designing someone a corporate identity so they can turn your hard labor into a profit. It’s all about context.

    And congratulations on citing Wikipedia as a source, BTW. Now that was meant as demeaning.

  35. Sad said,
    I read this post, and all I can think is: “This is sad.”

    It’s sad because apparently, all you care about is getting paid. Assuming that because someone might agree doing work for free is insane sounds like the saddest thing I have ever heard.

    Sure, there might be more neurosurgeons than artists, but I am fairly sure that nobody’s life has depended on artist’s work. So comparing a neurosurgeon to an artist is laughable at best.

    BR
    Among other skill sets I am a medical illustrator. If I fail to do my job correctly then the information available to the surgeon and the OR medical staff is wrong. Then too, much of what is done in medical research is documented and explained by use of an artist’s skill set.

    If you think a physician’s hand wrighting is bad, their artist skill sets are typically worse. Much of what I render as a medical illustrator is taken from the ER, the OR and the morgue. By the way it is not what you see on CSI.

    I’m also an industrial illustrator and I sculpture prosthetics. Tell someone without arms, ears, nose that what I do is not medically necessary.

    I happened to be a trained engineer and know from both sides what an engineer does best cannot be made real without the artistic ability and skill set of an illustrator and graphic designer. Many engineering designs require the signature of license P.E.

    I’m in a very select minority as I can work from both sides, the physical design and the illustration, but for most engineers without someone with the artistic ability the world would be still playing with hard (as in stone) rims on our wheels.

    Sad said,
    And what’s particularly sad about this whole deal is that a lot of tools used by web artists and 3D modelers, they happen to be open source. Made by people who got together and decided to make something good for free. If they had ever stopped to think like you, you wouldn’t have a lot of stuff, like Blender, Xara Xtreme, KToon, and many more. Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of computer programs that are used every day for purposes other than artistic ones. If they had ever stopped to think like you do, we wouldn’t have any of them.

    BR
    I’m an entrepreneur as well as an artist/engineer. Open source is an avocation and a not a vocation and is for the public good. Some say as a response by honorable people to the attempt to monopolize the market by the Big Dogs but that’s a discussion for another time.

    Perhaps I should qualify that as there are many who are paid to directly work on Open Source projects as there are sound business (read $$) reasons for a person or a company to support Open Source.

    As an engineer my first program was in Fortran, on punch cards run on a then state of the art IBM 1401. So by any measure I am a certifed Silver Back Old Dog.

    While at one time engineers used a slide rules we now use complicated calculators and computer programs. I expect many have the skills to manipulate a CAD program but just how many with the ability to operate a CAD program can do engineering design? The same goes for creative designs. Regardless of the applications are free or not free (Adobe comes to mind) or how sophisticated the code without the ability to use the application it is only some many ‘0’s’ and ‘1’s’

    Sad said,
    Programmers take on open source projects all the time. They take on them for multiple reasons. They like the project. They want to hone their programming skills. They like the idea of doing something for the community. They feel joy in working on a project, even if they won’t get any money out of it. Does that make programmers fools? Idiots? Stupids? Insane? I don’t think so. Yet that’s what you call anyone who is willing to do something for free. If you truly believe that, you’re either snobs, or really out of touch with reality.

    And what about all that people who do pro-bono work? Those guys who put on hours helping at, say, your local YMCA? They don’t get paid squat. They do it because they want to help. I’ve read about lawyers who work on their free time defending prostitutes and exploited people for free. If they were to think like you, they’d say “Hey, if you can’t pay my fee, then you can go to hell, I don’t care!” I could come up with hundreds of examples of people who take on jobs for free. For you, they’re stupids. Well, I for one believe that the world is a much better place because of them, and I would not like to live in a world populated by bitter, jaded people who think like you.

    BR
    Pro Bono is by definition ‘for public good’ not the private good. Producing a logo or other graphics for someone who is under funded or just too cheap to pay for the goods and services they require is wrong. It is wrong from a career advancement point of view and is wrong from a straight out best business practice.

    Keep in mind you can’t sell from an empty wagon. You have only so many billable hours in a day, week or year. Just how many hours are you willing to give away before you have no more left to sell? Considering that by your own advocacy there are many more like you giving away their work product? The good news for those that employ good business practices is that those who work for free will be out of the running within less than 5 years many less than 2. That’s a hard reality of the Darwin life model.

    Might interest you to know that all good business schools (Business 101 aka business plan basics), without exception, teach that a business plan based on free labor for others will fail. It is not a matter of if or even when but how soon.

    The IRS, with considerable historic justification, classes a business that does not make money for the principals as a HOBBY. The majority of those seeking spec work are looking for professional quality work. If they want amateur efforts there are a lot of high school students with the basic ability but no experience that they could hire but won’t. Seems all want fives star restaurant quality at McDonalds coupon prices or even less. Can we spell ‘unrealistic expectations?’

    The SBA will grant loans to applicants that have shaky credit, limited experience and in some cases a criminal records. What they won’t do is grant loans based on a business plan based on free labor from anyone including the principals. As to how I know I’ve worked with the SBA S.C.O.R.E program.

    Some companies staff 100% at the worker bee level from unpaid interns and freelance artist. The cry is ‘do this for me free and we’ll make it up on the next one’. Some are, or were, Big Dogs on the block. I know, personally, designers and illustrators that are still scrambling for the scraps left by ENRON and MCI. Sad part is their work product no longer belongs to them because they did not pay attention to accepted best business practices.

    Their logic as explained at Happy Hour in the local watering holes is ‘hire them on if the don’t work out or if they wise up we can always get another.’ It may be a miss quote but PT was right … there’s a new one born every minute.

    Then there are the would be tycoons who claim to be Big Dogs and can well afford to do what they’re about or they are in, reality, just like a lot of cowboys who would be tycoons: All hat and no cattle.

    It is only in the last 10 years or so that the art schools have been promoting unpaid internships and spec work as the only way to get a start in this business. This is the more interesting is that many of these selfsame art schools are in the big middle of the current dust up about kickbacks on student loan fees. So on many levels there is an obvious bios and perhaps a conflict of interest on the part of those who advocate free and spec work. Perhaps I should note that many of those that are the most ardent proponents of free labor from interns and spec work for neophytes have never had to make a payroll.

    Make no mistake this is a business and not an avocation. Life, too, is a business. If one does not attend to the business of life they die. If one does not attend to the business of art then that enterprise, too, will die.

    Keep in mind you can’t sell from an empty wagon. You have only so many billable hours in a day, week or year. Just how many hours are you willing to give away before you have no more left to sell? Considering that by your own advocacy there are many more like you giving their work product? The good news for the rest that do follow accepted good business practices is that those who work for free will be out of the running within less than 5 years many less than 2.

    It has been said many times: learn the lessons early and easy or late and hard. But learn you will or soon be working in another field.

    Sad said,
    Sure, if you don’t have a job, then taking on a pro-bono job is not an option. And sure, there are con men out there, trying to fool people. But those two situations aren’t exclusive to artists. Con artists are everywhere, just look at your “Spam” folder of your e-mail client. But saying that everyone who comes with an offer for a non-paying gig is a con artist, that’s delusional. Who’s really out of touch with reality here?

    BR
    Employed or not, anyone undertaking pro-bono projects must accept a trade off on the ability to earn a living and support a family from productive (i.e. paying) work.

    The best litmus for pro bono projects is the answer to the question: is this a project I would make a cash donation to support?

    So if your position is that working for free is a good for you, how about we skip the work part and you simply send me a check? Like the Russian comedian, Smirnoff, says, ‘What a deal!’

    Sad said,
    I guess what I’m trying to say is, there are lots of reasons why one person would be willing to work for free. And saying that someone who is willing to do such thing is a stupid, well, that just says a lot about you. And none of it is good.

    BR
    Electing to work for free is always an option, expecting someone else to work for free to the sole benefit of the person making the request is, as you say, stupid; others would be kinder calling it ‘unfair and unwise’.

    The historic ROI (return on investment) for spec work is 1%. Those are not my numbers but from CPAs and bean counters that evaluate startups and venture capital investments. Consider that the ROI on the slots at the casinos in Vegas is 3 to 5% and still favors the house.

    Once had an intern that, when pressed to take on a free job told the client ‘only if he married her, that way she would at least get spousal benefits for (prostituting) herself.’ She won the project and at a substantial premium over her competition. Why? Because she had the confidence in herself and her work to EXPECT to be paid. By extension are you telling the world that you lack the self-confidence to expect to be fairly paid for your skill set and work product?

    In truth if any individual does not have confidence in themselves and their work product how can the have any expectation that the market and potential clients will show them any respect.

    Sad said,
    From your front page: “If you are a non-profit, please, everyone knows that a non-profit doesn’t mean no money. You are getting paid and so is most everyone else working there. You just can’t show profits carried over from year to year or pay dividends and so on. Don’t forget, the people you are asking to do the work need profit to eat and pay bills. We are not part of your non-profit business model, like you, we expect to get paid for our work.” That is plain sad. You are explicitly saying that no artist should work on a non-profit organization, unless they get paid. That doesn’t sound like you want to “give back to the community.”

    In this article, you do compare an artist to a neurosurgeon, a car mechanic, and an IT programmer. That’s delusional. And it’s even sadder when I have actually seen doctors, mechanics, and programmers do work for free to help the community.

    BR
    Free work done by doctors, mechanics, and programmers is an elective option on their part. The pro bono work mandated in the emergency rooms in USA is paid for by others through cost shifting, so as they say there is no free lunch.

    An interesting aside: Many emergency rooms in the U.S.A. are having a very hard time staffing critically required skills for the services they provide.

    So if we’re loosing the services of physicians for the very reason of required under compensated labor how much are we, as a society, willing to give up because those with the artistic creative skills move on to real paying jobs.

    Sad said,
    If you truly mean that your message is not the bitter, jaded one that you’re currently showcasing, then you seriously need to either change the wording of your articles. Because as it stands, you are clearly stating that no artist should, under any circumstance, work for free. And that is just sad, and out of touch with reality.

    BR
    You ignore the obvious and read into the web site and responses here, meaning that is not there. There are those that argue as you but they are on the dark side that benefits, short term, from the free labor. Still a minority, but a larger subset. Yours, apparently, is one of the minority of post here and else were, from a practicing professional artist that feels as you do with regard to spec and free work… (some make out they are artist but the ruse wares thin quickly.)

    Your augments read like the many responses from those on the Dark Side. Most are an attempt to justify a bad practice as good. Further to make the procedure an accepted business practice. Or could it be that your personal ox is being gored and you really are from the Dark Side?

  36. Sad is wrong with the whole pro-bono slant to this argument. Doctors, Lawyers etc who do pro-bono work do so to aid the poor or destitute, people who would truly suffer if not for pro-bono. I would not consider your ordinary business owner or individuals looking for cheap graphic services, wall murals, paintings etc. as being in that category! It all comes down to the perception that any kind of creative service is considered as fun or as a hobby, not “real work” and therefore not worth much. And unfortunately we have all played our part in allowing this view to continue. You think it’s bad in the graphic design industry – come see what we have to deal with in the fine art world! Stupid misconceptions passed down through the ages and still ongoing today. And who are the perpetrators of this? Why the art marketing world!!! It makes me sick.

  37. Well written. Great article. About time that the guidelines for our services were laid down. I’m with you all the way on this.I had a serious run in with sitepoint last year over “the competitions” where a few dollars was the prize for logo design. Hundreds of entries and the user putting up the 50 bucks got to show his/her client a selection of designs and then charged thousands! Smart business eh? But cheap. No thanks, I sleep at night.
    On the other hand there are those who profess to be designers, web masters and copy writers and haven’t a clue.
    Of course we have all been aspiring students at some stage and I should say here and now that I created web sites and designs at next to nothing just to get a portfolio together.
    But don’t let the punters take the piss. Know your worth and justify it!
    Sell it by getting the punters minds right before the pricing.
    I’m in! Where do I sign up? The Baldchemist

  38. Although this does have a point, it is not accurate.

    In most fields of work, it is impossible to get a job without some type of internship. Few internships are paid anymore, and those that are paid are always low-paid.

    The good thing with arts is that this “internship” is much shorter than most. Take a few TFP assignments, andd you’ve built a name for yourself. It only goes up from there.

    I did several in the animal care field (as well as 7 years of additional volunteer work) before I got a job in that field. I have since switched careers to sports photography, and began selling some of my professional sports pictures at printing costs to make a name for myself.

    In short, you have to do something before you get return. And in the field of art, that is doing some work for little to no pay.

  39. The biggest problem in the Art field today, is the inexpensive software, the plummeting prices of digital cameras, but most of all, the lack of understanding of art in general.

    when the masses do not understand art in general, they will settle for what they are given.
    some of the blame must come back to us as artists for the pretentious attitudes that come out from time to time.
    when no one will explain to a client the reason this photograph, or this design, is better than the snapshot that their secretary gave them because of the viewpoint, the design, and the lighting, etc… then we are all to blame.

    It used to be, that the client liked it, he didn’t know why, but everyone was happy and got paid.
    most of the clients have no idea what goes into the final product, therefore, cannot justify the prices.
    when someone from the mailroom looking to get ahead, pops in and says “hey! I can do that for 1/2 the price”, they look at the bottom line, and say, ok go do it.
    they come back with inferior work, the client is happy because he doesn’t understand the difference, it cost 1/2 as much, and everyone is happy.
    ignorance is bliss
    so because we didn’t educate the masses, for whatever reason, we are paying for it now
    it is our own fault, the arrogance of the artist.
    I am not saying we all do this
    and i am not saying all photography and design can be done by fred from the mail room
    but alot of it can be done by him and the stock houses popping up all over the web
    selling images for as little as one dollar
    i refuse to submit my work to the stock houses, so i will probably have to find another line of work
    photography is becoming a dying art
    it scares me,

    and you as a designer, are one of the worst at making photography disappear, because the cost of stock is cheaper than hiring a professional
    (we can bring this job in for way less, if we take the photography out of the budget)
    laziness, its a disease
    i have lost more jobs to stock than any other thing out there, even Fred from the mail room
    i know that sometimes its easier to look online than to deal with the ego of a photographer, but there are alot of shooters out there without the attitude
    but the stock houses also have graphics for sell
    so you guys better watch out too!
    stock photography and clip art is becoming the future
    quick and lazy is king in our society
    and we let it happen

    our profession is becoming “A lost art” so to speak
    and that my friends
    makes me sad

    thanks for reading my diatribe
    i hope it makes sense to you, and not just in my head
    but hey, I feel better

    please be kind with my grammar
    i am a photographer
    not a copywriter
    for a reason

    sean

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  41. I find this article really offensive and elitist its filled with false analogy ad hominem attacks against the implied reader and just tons of other sloppy logic

    Designers are in no way shape or form similar to neurosurgeons or fast food workers

    and to the contrary of this article i do live in the real world the ones with small business’, indie films and open source software these are thing i love and support and have and will continue to do work for, for free. Clients like Troma films, the small business in my community and open source community deserve design as much as large corporations do but they don’t have the big money, so people like me who actually see the world beyond my wallet do these things for free i find this article and your web site offensive as a student, a designer, and most importantly as working class

  42. Over in the world of Open-Source, we tend to give away our work for free because you deserve to receive it for free, and deserve to have it not suck. After all the time I’ve spent having bosses and middle-managers screw up paid work (whether coding or design) with bad decisions, it’s ennobling rather than degrading to do these things for free because for once we can do it right. It brings back the joy of performing one’s art that too often gets poisoned by mercenary interests.

    Download firefox, for example. Enjoy it – you deserve it.

  43. They don’t call them starving artists for nothing, artists need work just as much a people need artists. Most likely more. They need to take one or two free assignments. Why? ARTISTS NEED TO BE PUBLISHED FIRST IF THEY WANT TO GET PAID.

    EXPERIENCE and GETTING PUBLISHED- That’s what an artist needs before they can seek paying assignments, because no one is going to pay an inexperienced and non-published artist.

    An artist may not get paid, but they’re getting the experience and their art published, what they need in order to be taken seriously by paying customers.

    Many times it is a “good opportunity” for artists to get their work out there and get noticed by having their work on things(as long as they’re credited properly)

    In the real world Artists need to get noticed or else they’ll starve, and getting noticed may require one or two free jobs. Artists have to make sacrifices if they want money for their work.

    Think of it this way-Art work for free is like the samples of food a new restaurant/food brand gives out to get people to buy their food. Not that many people are going to buy a box of a new brand of food unless they tried and liked it or someone they know has and recommended it.

    Free art assignments is advertising, so it really isn’t stealing from artists(*as long as they credit the artist), it’s getting the artist PUBLISHED. PUBLISHED artists get more paying work than non-published artists.

    Free artwork is like the internship everyone has to do after college before they get the official job.

    In reality, an artist will have to do one or two(maybe more) free art assignments in order to get the connections and referrals that leads to paid assignments. I’m sorry, but that’s the real world.

    Everyone in every creative field of work has to make sacrifices in order to get that paying job. Filmmakers(they won’t get paying work until their 30’s), writers(they sacrifice the most), musicians, actors, poets, I could go on. That’s the reality of being in a creative field, being an artist, you have to sacrifice to get paying work or else you’ll starve.

    Wake up!

  44. >> They don’t call them starving artists for nothing, artists need work just as much a people need artists. Most likely more. They need to take one or two free assignments. Why? ARTISTS NEED TO BE PUBLISHED FIRST IF THEY WANT TO GET PAID.

    The starving artist is a myth. Especially when it comes to commercial art. How many starving physicians, lawyers, engineers, technicians, can you name?

    >> EXPERIENCE and GETTING PUBLISHED- That’s what an artist needs before they can seek paying assignments, because no one is going to pay an inexperienced and non-published artist.

    Why do you presume that someone must work for free to gain experience? How many lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants or carpenters do you know that started out working for free?

    >> An artist may not get paid, but they’re getting the experience and their art published, what they need in order to be taken seriously by paying customers.

    Anyone that talks about a ‘good opportunity’ usually has a vested interest in snookering someone else into working for free. Hint the proponent of free work is, inevitably, making money on the deal.

    >> Many times it is a “good opportunity” for artists to get their work out there and get noticed by having their work on things (as long as they’re credited properly)

    It is just as easy to take a ‘good opportunity’ for pay that will likewise get the same, perhaps more, notice. As to the point of building a portfolio the inevitable question comes “So what have you done for a real, i.e. paying, client?”
    In the real world Artists need to get noticed or else they’ll starve, and getting noticed may require one or two free jobs. Artists have to make sacrifices if they want money for their work.

    Again the question: Why do it the way you’re suggesting. Any busienss that wants to get noticed advertises and promotes themselves and the product. They don’t give away the farm. Not if they hope to stay in business.

    >> Think of it this way-Art work for free is like the samples of food a new restaurant/food brand gives out to get people to buy their food. Not that many people are going to buy a box of a new brand of food unless they tried and liked it or someone they know has and recommended it.

    If you wish to adhere to false analogies: A portfolio is akin to a taste of food from a restaurant. Carrying your analogy to the end, just how many restaurants have you frequented that provided your party an entire meal, much less several meals, for free?

    An aside I’d like to see you try that dodge in some of the restaurants in NY or New Orleans. I’ll wager you’ll end up stealing more chain than you can swim with. (Hint both the Hudson and the Mississippi are cold and deep.

    >> Free art assignments is advertising, so it really isn’t stealing from artists (*as long as they credit the artist), it’s getting the artist PUBLISHED. PUBLISHED artists get more paying work than non-published artists.

    So what, paid published artist get more paying work than non-paid published artist. With our interns we’ve found that paid non-published artist get more work than non-paid non-published artist. Perhaps it’s because they EXPECT to be paid and the clients value their work accordingly?

    Free art assignments are NOT advertising, as it is not placed in a place or in a manner that is designed to bring busienss to the artist or the studio. If the truth were known, links between having our name at the bottom of any work product and a referral are rare.

    >> Free artwork is like the internship everyone has to do after college before they get the official job.
    It is only in the creative arts that students are now expected to work for free. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants are all paid for their time and skill set as interns.
    In reality, an artist will have to do one or two maybe more) free art assignments in order to get the connections and referrals that leads to paid assignments. I’m sorry, but that’s the real world.

    >> Everyone in every creative field of work has to make sacrifices in order to get that paying job. Filmmakers (they won’t get paying work until their 30’s), writers (they sacrifice the most), musicians, actors, poets, I could go on. That’s the reality of being in a creative field, being an artist, you have to sacrifice to get paying work or else you’ll starve.

    Again I ask you Why?

    We’re now retired with over four decades of professional experience. We were paid for our intern work and have made it a policy to pay our interns as well. Not because it’s the right thing to do (as it is) but because it’s flat good busienss.

    >> Wake up!

    Wake up? Why not move into the real world. You know the one with Darwin economics where a business plan based on free labor is destine to fail?

    That’s not just my opinion but also a fundamental in Business 101 in every good busienss school.

  45. I wish I had read this article back when I was in school or even before then. Not only that I wish NO!SPEC was around then and was at my university.

    Even when a school runs a competition and pays the winning student X amount of $, everyone else gets nothing. I feel it is a beginning for many students to learn what doing spec work is like and it is not a good example from the school/university.

    I’ve fallen victim to some spec work in the past, as well as some friends, mostly due to our lack of knowledge in the field. I felt I had to do some work, like I had to start somewhere. When I was studying graphic design, I felt like my school did not do enough to push participation in AIGA, I wish I had known more. I never found out the benefits. That could’ve been my lack of participation and I blame no one but myself.

    However, I do support NO!SPEC and would love for it to be more widely known to the design community, especially in schools. It’s just as important for any person in society to be aware of how spec work hurts designers/artists. I agree that the more artists are aware of the negative effects of spec work, the more everyone (artist or not) will know and avoid doing and asking for spec work.

    Thanks again NO!SPEC, and the author of this article!

  46. Interesting perspective that I agree with and also disagree.

    First, I am an owner of a design company who uses contract design labor for all projects. I can quantify that 75% of the contractors I find whether through CL, Guru, contract services or word of mouth are a) unreliable b) unethical c) difficult to deal with. We have deadlines and most miss them. I have budgets, many have taken my “required deposit upfront” and ran. The arrogant ones think they are marketing experts even though they have no training or knowledge in the field.

    I come from the corporate world and I can also say as an Art Director that all my design teams fell into this catagory as well. When I have gotten lucky enough to find out about a contractor through my network they were contracting because the kept being fired for not showing up for work, not getting work done on time or were so arrogant they were impossible to work with.

    I have been a designer for over 23 years and worked my way up the ranks. I can tell you and so can my clients that I am ethical, reliable and humble about my skills. I do what I am asked and complete work ontime and onbudget. Do I want to work for free? No, but would I do a job for free if it guaranteed me more work in the future and it was my way of showing my skills? Sure. Would I do more than one project for someone like that? No, because they were obviously taking advantage.

    I now vet designers by asking them to do a project for me for free so we can see how they work, how committed they are to the work and to see if they will run. Most run. The ones who have stayed make good money with me and get a profit share at the end of the year. My 6 designers 2 writers and 2 project managers each got a check for 18k last year from profits and we are a small company. When things got slow for a couple of months this year, everyone started networking on their own and brought in business till out big clients came back online. They all make commission for everything they bring in to. Could they have done all the work themselves, went off on their own? Sure but they are good people, loyal and see that there is a lot more to a job than money.

  47. The article is really touching. I have also undergone all positive and negative comments on it. The truth behind this, I personally think, is our own mind. We are artists. We put our soul into the work we do. On the other hand we are not necessarily negotiators. We are paid for what we can negotiate. We are paid for our ability to prove our job. We have to cultivate this confidence so that we could overrule the people who want to take wrong advantage of our hard work.

    Hence we have to chalk out the intention of our customer. If it is a first job, ask for as little advance as much he can give to cover the bare minimum for your cost. It is an accepted principal of marketing that once you have lower your image or price, it is very difficult to raise later on. Because you have to work very hard for raising even a little amount of money.

    So forget the word FREE. Nothing is free in this world. Rather I would suggest some other professional word for free. This may be Cost of promotion of advertising which should be recovered from the same client.

    So dear artists never be depressed. Do not say other that you or others are weak. Do business as others want to do with you. Do not cheat them but be not cheated.

    Everything lies in manliness. Never get defeated. A time will come when your art will be accepted with due regard and for due value. Awake arise and not stop till goal is achieved.

    With good wishes

    Walia.

  48. Someone sent this to me when I was searching for a camera man for an independent film I’m working on. And let me say that it really f*cking pisses me off. I make $10 an hour working labor because I can’t find anything better right now. But my true passion is writing and directing. Nobody paid me to write my script. Nobody is paying me to direct. Nobody is giving me a million dollar budget. Nobody else working on the project wants to get paid for their daily time. If the film makes money, we all get a piece of it. If it doesn’t, at least we have something to show off. Is it really that wrong of me to expect to find a camera man who just wants some exposure like the rest of us? Fuck the guy who sent this to me. I’m just an artist trying to work with other artists. That’s it.

  49. I appreciate what is being said, but I am a student and am currently working on three projects unpaid. I hugely appreciate the opportunities and experience, as it is hard to come by. If there are any paid projects for graphic or product design out there they would be a dream come true, contact me on (edited to remove email) But either way any experince at all would also be appreciated.

  50. OMG, I ran across this article while doing research for school. I too am a student, but an “older” student that has finally answered her calling. I have seen how being ‘creative’ can get you ran over. I have be asked to do “favors” for co workers, and bosses that expect that since I am beneath them that I can spend my free time working on a personal project for them.

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