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When is it okay for an artist to work for free?

by Jennifer Muirhead (follow)
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Leonid Pasternak
The Throes of Creation. Leonid Pasternak, 19th Century.

While volunteering is very generous, there is an argument to be made that providing artwork, music or writing for free devalues the work and encourages people and organisations to think that they're entitled to the content they want without paying for it. Exposure may be good for an artist, writer or musician's career but it doesn't pay the bills.

What do you think? When is it okay to work for free and when is it more advisable not to?

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I have painted for some 25 years.

I have given my 'artwork'(watercolours) for Charity, to be auctioned.
I was very pleased they did bring in a really high price, in fact! more than what I would have ever sold them for....I know a bit sad, but I think because there were a lot of people at the event, and some really liked my work...they just got caught up in the bidding.
So I was happy, it went to a good cause.

I fully understand what you are saying.
It is a personal issue I think, there are no real hard and fast rules.

It's not an issue for me, because I really wanted to help...it made me feel I have done something for these charities, that find it hard at times to raise the money.

I think...and this is my opinion the world would be a better place, 'if' more people did give of their works.

That is only my opinion...and how I see life.

I do not make much on my work normally.....because 'buying art' is not something people have high on their list to buy.

So in the end......it is totally up to the person.
P.S...... Love the Question :)
by jonaja
Only in the beginning while they're building their portfolio - an apprenticeship of sorts. Then no. Come to think of it, we all worked for free in the beginning in every profession. Business owners work for free in the beginning in their own businesses. Lawyers had to work at Law School for free in the beginning, plus pay for their tuition.
It's tricky. Tennis Australia was on Media Watch not long ago because they were advertising for a professional photographer with qualifications, experience and a strong knowledge of tennis but weren't prepared to pay them. I think it's disgusting when a large organisation like that which pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars a year exploits artists just because they can.


However, many of us writers on Answer Angels and Weekend Notes make a lot of use of free public domain photos. We would have to spend a lot more time sourcing photos or taking our own if someone hadn't donated their work.

As a writer I have donated my own work to charity (to be included in a book called 100 Stories For Queensland, a fundraiser for flood victims). I think charitable donations are great, but work done just for "exposure" is a bit more iffy. I understand wanting to get your foot in the door but doing unpaid work in the hope that it leads to paid work might be counterproductive. It's strange that people view the arts as somehow different from other industries. People don't seem to expect plumbers or engineers to do jobs for free just for the experience but it's seen as fine to ask it of a designer, a photographer, a painter or a writer.
It would not be considered art, but the tours I give of my home town are undervalued by some because they are free. Having signed up to take the tour, folk do not show and are too rude to contact me. I could describe myself as a pavement artist, I suppose, because the tours are mostly on foot.
It is a hard world for artists so sometimes working for free can be the only option to gain experience and networks. However, it is a pity that some people are quite prepared to exploit artists.
It should never be for free. People add a value to a material products, and free does not have the same value as that which caused a little pain in some way. However, artists are undervalued world wide. And I believe they should choose to do work for free when they choose to not because others expect it from them!
I think an artist should have that choice. Many people think that artist should do things for free, but there should be a trade.
I think an artist should have that choice. Many people think that artist should do things for free, but there should be a trade.
I have volunteered many human hours to charity and I have loved it. I also lately have donated my time doing artwork if you will, to an organisation, and for the second year in a row, and its sad, but I will not be doing it again next year. I love doing what I do and did, however, the trite thank you was pretty offensive and they didnt even make me a cup of tea or coffee. The thousands if not millions donated to this huge organisation is immense and for me that isnt the issue. Its the sincere thanks I would have liked along with a bit of caring. Nothing was suggested in just covering a small fee for costs. Nothing. Not even a note or card or letter of thanks. How poor is that? Thanking a person for their work/s and all they do or did for whatever they were supporting or whatever it is.. a Thank you and mean it or just buy a card and write a few words why they liked you doing what you did would have made a huge difference but they are too shabby for that. You would be shocked as to who 'they are'. Its a shame... a total shame. Then if there is no payment surely a Gift Card would have been great too, but nope their pockets are way too long. Nope they have burnt their bridges. I have worked for them as a volunteer for 2 .5 years and these two occasions were 'special' days. So nope...... thats a HUGE THANKS would have been good manners but most take take take and I do love to give. So I will still volunteer but not with this organisation. Im done! oh how many hours and its not easy work..........6hrs! which of course didnt cover MY costs. Time is mine to give... Anyyyywaaaaay.........as Ellen De Generes says.
Whenever they feel like it. Their talent is theirs alone to do what they like with...whether they pursue further studies to develop and refine it, use it professionally in order to make money, share their works with others for free, create their art for their own pleasure or simply not use it at all, really isn't anyone else's business. Women don't appreciate being told what they can or can't do with their bodies, and similarly artists should be free to use their 'gifts' in any way they choose.
Oh, I'm not about telling them whether they can or can't. I'm interested in when it's advisable to do it or not.
If it's for a good cause, so you are promoting an idea/value/cause you believe in, then I consider it the same as giving a money donation to charity. I have let magazines take articles off my blog, because they're just sitting there anyway. But I have been asked to write articles for magazines that are original content, without payment?? What the?! Just told them that I charged and they could use what they like off the blog, but to ask first. I can't believe anyone would agree to that. The magazine is making money, why shouldn't I? (for the record, the exposure promised was not noticeable - I think it was only a tiny amount of people, and I get more readers off twitter by myself!)
When she's painting her mother a birthday present :D

I think it is OK if you are starting off and want to get known.
However once you are known, I do not think it is a good idea unless it is for a charity.
by Finy
I think it's okay for an artist to work for free when it is their choice and they have been forced in anyway to give their work away - simple as that.
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