Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don't give it away!

We've all been through this as artists. Someone asks you to speak to their group, review their show, critique their work, etc. And they don't mention payment in their request.

Maybe they honestly mean to pay you, and they just haven't included the topic in the initial conversation. Maybe they are cheap and hope they won't have to pay you at all. Maybe they are ignorant and think artists perform these types of services gratis. How do you politely handle this situation without 1. giving up what might good opportunity over a misunderstanding, 2. agreeing to something and finding yourself scrambling over the subject of money afterward, or 3. losing your temper and yelling, "You ignorant slob!"?

My friend Wendy offers this ideal solution.

Reply politely that you will get back to them on it as soon as possible. Then contact them with a professional and upbeat email message, listing your hourly rate and saying that it would be a pleasure to work with them.

If they decline in their response or don't respond at all, you will know that they were not willing to hire you at these rates, and so you have saved everyone time and trouble and perhaps even educated them that artists are professionals and deserve to be paid as such.

But perhaps they will agree to pay what you ask, which will give you the pleasure of being paid fairly for what you do best.

From making illustrations for no payment when I was fresh out of design school, to being asked to speak to a college class for free, to being asked to write a review for free, to spending more than a year insisting on being paid an honorarium that I had been promised ... I've definitely seen what NOT to do, so I very much appreciate Wendy's solution.


Eileen P Goldenberg said...

Good advice! I am often asked to consult, speak, jury, curate, etc..I have an hourly rate or day rate and expect to get paid...thanks for putting this out there!

Catherine Carter said...

Wise policy, Eileen. I'm often surprised by how often other people (sometimes other artists) expect these types of services for free.

LynetteH said...

Great topic. I was recently contacted by a photographer who wanted to bring a friend to my studio, have a little tour and a semi private class for 2 hours, though they didn't call it that. Their entitlement and persistence really turned me off. I offered to spend 2 hours with the 2 of them at my hourly rate. They didn't take me up on it and I was glad. But honestly, a professional photographer-- what was she thinking?

Catherine Carter said...

Lynette, if anyone should have known, it's a freelance artist like that! That definitely sounds like someone who was trying to weasel out of paying you what she would have owed you. I bet she'll just go to another person who uses encaustic and try to get a free lesson from them, since it didn't work with you ...