Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Post #5417: "I'll work for exposure if i want to, and you guys can keep sitting around waiting for your cheque."

(The above quote is from a reader who is comfortable with a professional cartooning gig where he works for exposure.)


Yes, this really is my 5,417th entry. I am in my 521st week of blogging about pro cartooning. Wow!

I sure sound self-congratulatory, but this is the Internet: it's full of selfies.

When I started, way, way back in the prehistoric times of 2005, there was not a lot about the cartooning business on the Internet. Certainly nothing in-depth about the business. There wasn't any guide to what to do, for instance, when a for-profit corporation wants you to draw stuff for free.

My advice:

Don't work for free.

I've said that for years, and in 2009 I published a Don't Work for Exposure entry. It was sparked by  Google asking professional artists to work for free. The company had just posted $1.42 billion in earnings that first quarter.

It got a lot of great comments, including, just last week, a "rebuttal."

A person named tomasz posted this:

"Working for free is nothing like scabbing. It's simply being comfortable with taking an offer that you guys aren't comfortable with, just like any other business transaction. If you think a cup of coffee is priced too high, you're free not to buy it. Just as if someone is offering exposure work, you are free not to take it. Evidently the money matters to you guys. It doesn't matter to me, but the exposure does. So i'll work for exposure if i want to, and you guys can keep sitting around waiting for your cheque."

I never said working for free was like scabbing.

If you do give away your work for free, then "free" is your price.

It's up to you whether your say yes or no to a potential client who asks you to work for free. If the client is from a money-making operation, then they are able to pay you. More than that: they should recognize the value of your work.

If they do not, say no and smile and move on.

Unless you have a day job and can afford to work for free. But you will always have to have that day job since "free" is your price. If you want to congratulate yourself on that, then that's your business.


Mr. Ollie said...

Good for you, Mike: I'm glad you're standing up for us. The problem still is though that as long as these people continue to do free work, then the rest of us who do this for a living have a harder time getting paying work. Thanks again, Mike. I agree with you. As a matter of fact, I turned down something yesterday where I was told about getting to "share" my work and "expose" what I do, but there would be a small "stipend" for my time. I didn't even ask how small a stipend, hearing "share" and "expose" was enough of a red flag to me.

Dennis Lynch said...

I trust y'all are following the "Exposure" story in Doonesbury ...

Dennis Father of Mike Lynch

Maria Scrivan said...

I absolutely love the drawing of the cartoonist hunched over the mailbox.

Mike Lynch said...

Here's a link to the DOONESBURY comic strip that my Dad is referring to. It's a week-long series. And this is a "DOONESBURY CLASSIC" from 1986. Giving away creative work for nothing is a topic that (sadly) endures from one generation to the next! Thanks for the heads up, Dad!


Brian Fies said...

I'd like to think that clients paying nothing would come to understand that free work usually isn't good work, and be willing to pay a fair price for work they wouldn't be ashamed to publish. I'd LIKE them to realize they get what they pay for. In real life, I'm not sure they can tell the difference.

I also think there's a sort of entry-level market where working toward your first published piece in a bare-bones local publication justifies low or no pay. Having a clip to show future clients has value. Per Mark Twain's advice to writers: "Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for."

But by and large, people like your correspondent just poop in the sandbox and ruin it for everybody else.

Paul Giambarba said...

I'm glad I listened to a mentor whose professional advice was Never, ever work for exposure. If your work is good enough bring your portfolio around to the best agencies and publishers who pay the most. Don't start at the bottom because that's where you will end up. Don't ever work for nothing, it ruins the business for everybody except the chiselers.

andy broome said...

This story made me sketch this out...
I once had a discussion with an animator just out of school about pay and "selling out."
I said: "Would I still cartoon even if there was no pay? Sure, I love it and I draw everyday, even if its just for me but when it comes to someone using my work, I like eating a whole lot more."

I am one of those cartoonist with day job. I've been fortunate to combine both jobs. But having a career and not dependant on income from cartoons makes me charge MORE for my work, not less. And certainly not free!

FM Hansen said...

This unfortunately never get old because there are still a lot of folks who have no problem asking people to work for free. And that’s what it is “work.” Just because you enjoy it does not mean it is not work and it takes “time” to get it right. And like any self-sustaining business, everything you do is a reflection of your business, so you can’t work for free or for pennies and then do crappy work because the pay was poor. That doesn’t work either, unfortunately. Plus most of us have too much integrity to do that in the first place.

Donald Benson said...

Mark Evanier has the corollary in a series of articles on his site. It boils down to "Avoid guys whose plan is to pay you something if somebody else buys your work from them." His counsel is to apply any free work to your personal projects, not to what should be work for hire.

That said, I'd carve out very narrow exceptions for genuine competitions where the reward is demonstrably worthwhile, and the occasional spec for clients you've worked with and can trust.

There's a company out here whose business plan is to provide original art by throwing a design competition and giving the client 99 specs to choose from. Winner gets the job (less the company's rakeoff), losers get experience. They were advertising for a copywriter for a few years straight; suspected their ideas about paying writers mirrored their ideas about paying artists.