I thought I should address this issue even though it seems like common sense to me, but maybe others fall prey to this. I’ve seen an alarming number of art opportunities that ask artists to give up their work for free in exchange for publicity, a percentage of the royalties, etc. These are typically illustration jobs or graphic design jobs which promise to “provide you with good portfolio pieces.” Or they expect their book to get published, thereby making the artist “famous” and they will receive “royalties.” If you are an artist, no matter how desperate you may be for money or exposure, please don’t go for these “opportunities.”
First, you should already have a portfolio, which means that you already have 8 or more of your best pieces to show. So when a job promises that all you get in the end is a great sample for your portfolio, well, you’ve already filled that void. You can find a paying gig that will do the same. You should be keeping copies of your work for your portfolio, personal records, etc. anyway.
Next, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the overwhelming majority of potential authors looking for an artist do not have a publisher lined up. So when they ask you to do free illustrations, you are probably doing this work so it will end up lining their cat’s litterbox. More than likely these are half-baked ideas that these people *may* intend to follow through with, but won’t. In the end, there will be no book, screenplay, collection of poetry, etc. therefore your artwork will never be seen.
I know there are exceptions to every rule, but more than likely requests for free artwork are nothing more than that- free work. Time is money, so please keep that in mind before you consider forking over your valuable work to strangers (or even family members!). Unless someone has already shopped around for a publisher and their deal is a “sure thing,” then you can discuss your payment and get it in writing. And unless you know that your work will be heavily marketed (and this is still debatable), don’t even consider hoping for publicity from the use of your free illustrations, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, pro-bono work is great, but the jobs I’m talking about are not for a good cause. They are simply a means to an end for someone else looking to line their pockets with your free work. Before you give away your comic book art, maybe you should just write your own comic. Or get a gig doing graphic design for an actual design company that pays you with money and not empty promises. There are plenty of paying opportunities for artists, you just have to look for them. Let’s put an end to the starving artist concept. You’re a paid professional, and should be treated as such.
Let me know if you come across any other questionable opportunities. Comments? I love comments. Questions? I love questions.