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I do freelance as well as my full time job, and I am always setting up the next job.  it's a safe bet, that if i'm breathing, I'm painting or hustling to get paid for more painting.  That's what I do for a living.  It's how I put food on the table, and porn in the bathroom.

That said, I thought it bore mentioning especially here on DA though, that I work for HIRE.  If your sweet RPG project, or video game pitch has no budget at all for art, it will save both of our time if you don't try to tap me for artwork.  I Do realize I'm passing up an amazing opportunity for me to make my portfolio way more awesome, and that I won't be getting that free publicity.  It's a risk I'll have to take.

I'm not opposed to people making things out of their garage, in fact, I wholesale endorse it and want you to succeed with it.  I sincerely hope your team is a massive success.  

I can't work for free though.

You wouldn't ask a gardener to stop by your place to do your lawn for free because it would be really awesome for him.  You wouldn't ask a chef to cater your wedding for free because you have the sickest idea for how the wedding will go, right?
You wouldn't send requests to a lawyer to hook you up with free intellectual property law consultations.

Just because I do art, doesn't mean my time is any less valuable than all of those guys.  I spent just as much time in school.  Quite a damn bit of money I'm still trying to pay off, and years of suffering through trying to get better and better.

When you pay an artist for their work, their prices denote not just the cost of their time, the materials, or the effort for your project.  What you are paying for is the cost of experience.  A lifetime spent perfecting a craft, and honing an ability.  You pay for all the mistakes we won't make for you, because we've made them for ourselves already.  You pay for the mind that has been training to deal with specific problems, and generate kick ass ideas, and original concepts.

These things are not born to us, they are learned.  You are paying for the time you don't have to spend learning the craft.  Just like you pay for pizza when you don't want to make it yourself.  

Art is just like anything else when it comes to business.  You get what you pay for.   

I'm just not willing to deliver poor quality goods.

-End rant-----------

This is for you young or budding artists out there just starting to get into pro work.  Be wary of requests made, especially through this site.  

Firstly, to horribly misquote Stephen King when asked about when you are a professional writer, "When you get a check in the mail paying for your writing and you pay the light bill with it, you are a professional."
I totally agree with that dude.  When you are even moderately confident enough in your skill and you start getting approached with just these kinds of offers, think about this rant.  I know you will do a few anyway. Hell, I did.  I've been fucked exactly three times by would be mega-projects that were 'good for my portfolio'.  We all have to stick our fingers in the flames to learn.  That's fine.  But learn, please!  Don't underbid yourself, don't sacrifice your wage for your work.

The formula is simple, and I have had to tell my students many times how this works, so pay attention.

How much do you want to make an hour?  If need be, divide down from an annual salary you'd like. In freelance, work is peppered throughout the year, so compensate for projected downtime. Once you've worked out your hourly, estimate how long the art will take to make and bam.  =h
How long will your part in the project take? =t
How many changes will they likely want, and make sure your contract has clauses for client changes(if you are smart set a limit to number of changes, and be sure to charge.  Watch how much less picky they get when their wallet is on the line. Hahahaha!). =v
Are you being taxed?  If you aren't.  Say you are.  =x
Cost of materials? =m

And here it is: h+t+v+x+m= I'm Rich BITCH!  

It will be more than you assumed you were worth, I'm certain.
Now comes the time for dark self assessment.  Is your art really worth that sum?  Where are you in your career, and how far are you from where this number is at?
Start shaving it back down until you think that it's VERY good money for your level of work.  Then make your bid.

If you are lucky your client will jump on it.  Don't feel like you should have asked for more.  Be proud that you got a lot more than you thought you were worth.  This is awesome also because you've established precedence for yourself and now have a starting rate to build up from as you improve.

If your client haggles. Don't be afraid to haggle.  Generally when a person counterbids, they drop down a chunk and expect you to meet them somewhere in the middle of your original bid and their first counter bid.  If their offer is simply unacceptable after that, do not be afraid to walk, but definitely consider it and your skills honestly.

If your client laughs.  Disconnect.  If they come back, ask them what they think would be a fair rate for you.  If they don't, ah well, no love lost.  There will be more clients, and you can use that as fuel to work your ass off and get better, so next time they clamor for your skills.

I hope this helps clear the silly fog of 'don't share how much you make' shame.

Molest in peace,
Uncle Z
  • Listening to: tripod
  • Reading: game developer
  • Watching: Aliens
  • Playing: Black Ops
  • Eating: ramen
  • Drinking: ocha
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Miyazu Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
wooowww. well said/typed .
Kangarew22 Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2011
wonderfully written. lots of great advice, thank you!
kevinroberts Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2011  Professional Photographer
Thanks for expressing this all so well!!!
Teremiao Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks, thanks and thanks again! :)
Skeleton-Boy Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011  Professional General Artist
I figure the formula would be more like (ht+x+m)v
344485453227283 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2011
right on
c69-is-me Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2011
Yeah, money ahead. Artist is just a pawn in the grand scheme, and even if he will do awesome genial masterpieces - the project might get TRASHED. And nobody will see that art at all.

Regarding getting payed after the success - rofl - look at APB, they have great artist, and they shipped, and they had 120.000 subscribers. But they did not turned profitable and closed after 2 month of operation. Imagine IF artists were not payed in advance.
WavingMonsterStudios Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2011  Professional General Artist
Excellent advice - I heard someone say the other day when asked how long it took them to paint a painting they'd done - they answered with their age in years. This is what I will do from now on too.

I am still amazed at how people also think that becuase you are doing 'what you love' then you would be happy to do free stuff and happy to give them 'mates rates' or whatever.
Core-Point Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2011
Great post.
pd-inc Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2011  Student
I have this journal bookmarked so everytime I'm unsure of my high prices, I'm reassured. Thanks (sosososo much) for such an insightful journal!

(Loving your sense of humour too haha, :D )
slaughterArt Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2011
Me thinks he doth protest too much... and, OK, I'm convinced you're a pro.
But I can't say I agree with this at all. Artists get freebies all the time; and collaboration is not the same as doing work for "free". I'm surprised to see this tone coming from someone in LA.

If the basement/garage programmer that spends over $500 per year just to get "re-certified" can work "for free" so can artists. You can make a game/cartoon etc with crappy art, but you can't make one with crappy programming. How many times have I seen requests for donations on DA to get an art tablet or other tech? I guess free is ok then huh? I know game engineers that are working in fricking retail stores.

By the way, how much are you paying for your DA page? Nothing, right? I didn't see anything about the cost of operation at DA. And how much was Coppermine? Most artists have had "help" to get where they are--there's nothing wrong with giving something back.

I know what you're saying sounds righteous to you, but this is really bad attitude for artists, thinking that we are the only ones who have bills. If you're too busy doing "billable" work to help someone "pro bono" (yes, lawyers do work for free all time) that's fine, that's great! If not then maybe you do need a little more exposure… but it doesn't sound to me like you're willing to pay for it. BTW, How much do you pay your agent?

In any case it's not some kid's fault that you don't get the recognition or 'bill rate' you think you deserve. I guess the choices are, politely tell them you don't have time, or give them some advice, or help them with their project, or write a screed explaining how valuable you are as an artist.

I work with a lot of writers and I often wonder, they create the shows but the actors get all the credit--I wonder why they don't post stuff like this? I wish you much success, but here, I think you're setting a bad example. You're putting yourself into a box of pride and greed, that's a business stereotype, but it's not business.
IzzyMedrano Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2011  Professional Artist
I'm sorry, but this is nonsense.

Honest work for honest pay is hardly "pride" or "greed". But I love that you went there, because now this happens:

A site like DA is not free. Yes we can use it for free, but the programmers ARE paid. Advertising and subscribing dollars do that. Moderators get perks. This is a form of payment. So the people involved in the site are paid, rightly so, for their efforts.

At no point in my 'screed' did I say programmers should work for free either. How presumptuous. Quite the opposite, my point is plainly, you should never be tricked into working for free. No matter what your profession. Your time and effort are worth something. If not direct pay, direct benefit somehow. The promise of a better portfolio, or future working with is not a direct benefit. As someone coming from LA, this tone may be curt and business-like but is the only way to survive here. If you come out here hoping your handouts will make you a success, you are in for a terrible surprise.

To work for free doing things directly for yourself to get ahead, makes perfect sense, such as School, portfolio work, personal work. And I fully endorse it

To constantly work for free at the REQUEST (Pay attention to that element there, cuz that's the major point of my little slam dunk on you here) of random people wanting to low- ball you, or use YOUR art and hard work to make THEIR dreams come true is ridiculous. And the people asking such things should know that. Period.

Coppermine is a bad example. The bloke that wrote that wanted to write something for recognition, I'm certain. Thousands of people use it, including myself, which I'm assuming was the reason for that particular 'attempt' at a dig. The point is that the asset was there for the using. It was already done. That is NOT what I'm talking about with this rant. So pay attention, here it comes again, from another angle so it will be solidly clear. I didn't call up the author of Coppermine, tell him I like his work, and ask him to do me a favor and write a whole new elaborate chunk of code, it'd be really good for him if he hooked me up for free. And if I did, he told me to fuck myself, I would have rightly deserved that.

With me yet?


Okay, I'll round the bases now and finish this up.

I pay taxes, and I paid quite a lot (seriously!) of money to go to school to learn the craft that you seem to think I should be doing handouts with. I don't have, and have never used an agent, this is an idiotic point, as agents are highly paid for their efforts BY the people they contract to. So yeah, wow, that alone almost kept me from responding as I had to make general assumptions about blunt force trauma to your noggin that you must have experienced, but alas, here we are.

I got my exposure when I needed it, and continue to do so, by updating blogs and my website with new artwork that is angled toward the market I'd like to work in and get paid for. So you work with writers? Actors get credit? Writers still get paid, and are rarely asked to work for nothing. Remember the writers strike a few years back? Look up why they had it. Ah don't bother, this is the best part:) They wanted to be PAID for the use of their WORK on online streaming sites as a new medium. THAT'S why they don't post stuff like this my know-it-all friend! They have a union that does it for them! LOL!

OH MAN. That was good.

What I offered here was a bit of advice to kids with NO union, and often kids that have had no teachers, or who've had teachers that aren't working right now in the field. This advice is sound. Logical and clear. Any malice injected into the journal was for humor and derived from having to go through all of these things myself and knowing they are familiar with all of it. If the work force is a food chain, I am only letting them know, they don't have to be algae. You are welcome to disregard any and all of it. But don't you dare accuse me of of avarice and pride because I know what working is worth.


BTW. Lawyers work Pro-Bono, by recommendation. It's "recommended" by the government that they do a certain amount of hours a year for free. They aren't forced. And they get to choose and will happily pass on something that won't get them insane amounts of fame or good press karma. They do pro-bono for themselves. Only an idiot would even consider that they do it out of the kindness of their massive lawyer hearts. "Cuz they paid 180k and spent six plus years in school to have a case of the warm snugglies."
slaughterArt Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2011
I'll keep it short. First, if what I said was non-sense why such a long reply. 2. You defended against things I didn't say or imply.
re: "They aren't forced" where did that come from? No one mentioned forced work.

Glad you feel better, let me know when you learn to read and argue like an adult. Actually, no, let's just leave it... you win, you're right. Good luck. All the best.
IzzyMedrano Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2011  Professional Artist
I accept this awkwardly pathetic half-retort as your surrender.

I think you have really lived, learned, and grown from this, though!

I'm truly proud of you, but definitely avoid misquoted Hamlet references in the future. You just come off a little tiny eensy bit douche-tastic when you try incorrectly to come off all smarmy and clever.

It is:

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

And now, you'll never forget.

PawnAttack Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
What a disappointing response, Slaughter. I was expecting something that might redeem you or at least an effort to make your statements make more sense.

You're really faulting him for making a long reply? Really? You're sad he made an effort to show you how heinous your words were? You thought after you insulted him and any respectable artist trying to make a living he would bow and tell you that you made a fair point? Well darling you've walked into the wrong place to be throwing around ridiculous statements (which may I add have absolutely no facts or research of any kind.).

I would would love to go on about how absolutely wrong you are but I think what needs to be said has been said. You clearly won't be persuaded to reason.

It's good that you've backed out of this argument. This will surely only bring the anger of any working artist down upon your head.
bloodydefinitions Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2010
Agree with this 100% Great to see. I noticed that it mentioned "you wouldn't ask a chef to cater your wedding for free" I may not be an artist but i've experienced this scenario as a chef. Was asked to cook for an acquaintances wedding for free one time.

Their pitch was "we dont have the money to afford a cook, but we know you so you can do it, we'll buy the food you just have to cook it" because for some reason they think just 'cooking' the food for 100 people isn't anything worth money. There's planning involved, thinking of the menu, which pairs with what, making it look perfect. much like an artist.

needless to say I declined because of how much work it would have been, and recieved much ire afterwards.
Merrk Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2010  Professional General Artist
Ordinarily I wouldn't read a journal this long, but your art is awesome and so I read it. Excellent advice which I will remember in future.
hernameisrio Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hello, good-lookin'.
IzzyMedrano Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2010  Professional Artist
Hello, mon Rio!
DelusionalPuffball Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
:heart: Feel like this was extracted from my brain. =D
DanHowardArt Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
amen , sir.
fantasio Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Its a bit of fresh air to an old and neverending topic.
Honestly there is hell($5 sketches and deeper) and heaven $1500 sketches -offers that can be found through deviantart. What I think is really missing in art-education is the marketing and economics chapter.
Like your comparison shows, any hairstylist who opens a shop knows how much to charge. Sure this is not depending on talent or establishing time( not a lot) but there is a point. A valid one. Which in return shows me that art or "careers in art" is generally undervalued by either government, education and the industry. In no other industry youŽll find such a high rate of graduates that have to learn another job to make an income than in the field of the arts. You canŽt blame deviantart or the people, its the system that is sick and just wrong.
CreatureGirl Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2010
Three words,"Best. Advice. Ever."
magnus Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2010
Pretty much.
Videogamejunki Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Raggedy-Annedroid Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2010  Professional General Artist
Yes! hahah. To quote the Joker... "IF YOU'RE GOOD AT SOMETHING........NEVER DO IT FOR FREE!" ^_^
thirdeyepl Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Great read, thank you for this :)
salshep Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2010
This ought to be a news.
I'm serious. This is amazing information, for new and experienced artists alike.
Thank you for it.
DjStayFresh Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2010
NOTE: use discretion when taking on projects for family and friends. often they cause you to work too hard for little reward. at a restaurant a server can receive tips for a job well done. in our profession we dont get tips. and in fact we sometimes allow our price to be haggled down, or discounted. ive changed my policy to payments or deposits up front and have lost some clients. but those clients have caused me more stress than what i was compensated for. everyone do not deviate from this guide and i promise it will serve you well in the future.
BastienSanchez Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Helpfull rant. F*cking true. Thanks.
JessicaDru Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Man, i had some dude ask me to give him a 3d model i'd slaved over, without sleep, for a week. When i said "no, but i could direct you to the right places to learn how to make one of your own". He had the audacity to whine at me and tell me why i wouldn't give him the file.
like... wtf. i had to explain much of what you just wrote. dumbassery is amuck!
mercinder Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2010
Thanks a billion times over
dapper-owl Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2010
This is excellent.
RVST Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional General Artist
Thanks for the heads up. This is sage advice for someone trying to make it as a professional in this business. It can be all to easy to undervalue yourself and be taken advantage of.
tsheva Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Best journal ever.

Well said.

There SHOULD be a fave journal button DA.
fenrysk-art Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
so true man
vladdamien Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
" I Do realize I'm passing up an amazing opportunity for me to make my portfolio way more awesome, and that I won't be getting that free publicity."

Oh lordy do I always laugh when they shoot shit like that.

Preach on, brother!
Skeware Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010   General Artist
:standing ovation: !
KatieHofgard Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Wish I could +fav your journal here! This needs to be said over and over again, and the word spread in my opinion. Thanks for writing it in such a clear a kind way, it should make sense to anyone who reads it!
MJWilliam Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional Traditional Artist
nitachan Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010
Thanks! after being fucked twice in 3 months after graduation, those are words that help gain a little bit of confidence
eldictator Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010
Really annoys me.
Because some schmuck has a set of paints or photoshop they think this profession is easy.
As stated you wouldn't ask a plumber to fix a leak or install a boiler for free because it's good for his potential client list and word of mouth customers.
No you would cough up the 450 for the job and wouldnt question it because you know you could try it but you would ultimately fail.

What is it about art and artistic services that warrants disdain?
Prostitution isn't the oldest paid profession, an artist is
Brendavid Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks! Wish I could favorite journals. This looks handy.
AlixBranwyn Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you for this! You articulated my issue with it better than I could, and I'll be tempted in the future to just reply back with a link to this journal.
XThrill Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010
Need to read something like that today! I agree what you say. And there is another aspect of what you say.

So many people around me try to stay eight hours at their workplaces, without working, not because they don't like their job, just because they think they deserve much money, but even though don't want to go to another workplace, even if there is so. But if so, why don't they try to do what they can do for money they deserve - as perfect, as they want to be their salary? Isn't that the way of discovering the great ideas of the world? So start working in your way is the way of creating the greatеst аchievements in art and knowledge on the Earth.

... Do somebody continue reading my * nonsenseс... :D :D :D
Loath-some Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
<3 man <3
Thanks for this.
I totally agree with the rant part too!
Mr--Jack Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional
Amen sir :nod:
DanielAraya Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
This is great!
celestialenvy Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010
DmitryGrebenkov Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
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