Illustrators Don’t Work For Free

September 16, 2009

This article was first posted on Craigslist and later flagged/removed… but not before someone caught sight of it and re-posted it on his blog.  I read this courtesy of my colleauge Jerry Teo, and I’m doing the same by reposting here.

Special thanks to my former Prof Kathryn Adams for bringing this to our attention.

Original Post on Position Relative “Craig’s Pissed January 23, 2007

I’m a self-employed graphic designer. In the old days, when I was greener than a leprechaun’s testicles, nothing would make me consider suicide quicker than a potential client who was, in fact, just some deluded jackass. The hook was usually, “If you do this job cheap, I’ve loads more work for you!” and I bought that line more times than anyone with an ounce of sense ought to have. This morning, the following was posted on CraigsList. It’s been doing the rounds on design boards and blogs in a big community whoop because it captures and excoriates so perfectly the ignorance and arrogance inflicted on designers by design morons. The post was quickly flagged and removed (i.e. censored) by CraigsList users, but not before it became the gift that keeps on giving.

Who was that masked crusader? Designers everywhere owe him a hot coffee and a big hug.

Post from CraigsList

“Every day, there are more and more Craigs List posts seeking “artists” for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service. But what they’re NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be. To those who are “seeking artists”, let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? …none? More than likely, you don’t know any. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be posting on craigslist to find them. And this is not really a surprise. In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field. So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street? Would you offer a neurosurgeon the “opportunity” to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him “a few bucks” for “materials”. What a deal!) Would you be able to seriously even CONSIDER offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

If you answered “yes” to ANY of the above, you’re obviously insane.

If you answered “no”, then kudos to you for living in the real world.

But then tell me… why would you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks? Graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person.

In short, it makes you look like a twit.

A few things you need to know;

1. It is not a “great opportunity” for an artist to have his work seen on your car/’zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a “great opportunity” for YOU to have their work there.

2. It is not clever to seek a “student” or “beginner” in an attempt to get work for free. It’s ignorant and insulting. They may be “students”, but that does not mean they don’t deserve to be paid for their hard work. You were a “student” once, too. Would you have taken that job at McDonalds with no pay, because you were learning essential job skills for the real world? Yes, your proposition it JUST as stupid.

3. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their “portfolio”. They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

4. Stop thinking that you’re giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

5. Students DO need “experience”. But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the “experience” they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen? If you your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

6. (This one is FOR the artists out there, please pay attention.) Some will ask you to “submit work for consideration”. They may even be posing as some sort of “contest”. These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by many artists seeking to win the “contest”, or be “chosen” for the gig, and find what they like most. They will then usually have someone who works for them, or someone who works incredibly cheap because they have no originality or talent of their own, reproduce that same work, or even just make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will NOT be paid, you will NOT win the contest. The only people who win, here, are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This is speculative, or “spec”, work. It’s risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely. For more information on this subject, please visit

So to artists/designers/illustrators looking for work, do everyone a favor, ESPECIALLY yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are “spec” gigs, or just some guy who wants a free mural on his living room walls.

They need you.

You do NOT need them.

And for those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world. The only thing you’re accomplishing is to insult those with the skills you need. Get a clue.”

Halley’s comet is going to hit Iowa… in about 3 or 4 million years.

July 7, 2006

I am currently rereading (as well as occasionally listening via audiobook) to Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” primarily a science and history based book, this work is a phenomenal piece of literature, not only for its factual and interesting content, but for its ability to clearly convey and illustrate intimidating concepts (that would otherwise be lost on many readers) through modernized examples and comparisons. Although I have only listened to half of the book, I have already learned more in just over two hours than I have during the entire summer. Already the book has covered topics ranging from physics to quantum physics to astrophysics, biology and chemistry, geology and geography, entomology, cartography, archeology, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, radiology and palaeontology (just to name a few that readily come to memory). It is full of astounding facts and information about many interesting and incredible scientific fields, and deals with the discoveries, failures, legacies and conflicts of such famous figures as Pythagoras, Newton,read Cavendish, Marie Curie, Einstein, Bertrand Russel and Stephen Hawking.

Interesting fact derived from the text:

Were another planet capable of supporting sentient alien life, similar to our own existence, it would have to be based on a planet postulated to be at least 200 light years away. This means that, assuming this alien race were (right this minute) able to view our species upon this planet, they would actually be watching what we refer to as the 17th or 18th century, because of the spatial lag in light travel between locations. It would take centuries of viewing for them to reach what we would presume to call the ‘present.’

This phenomenon also means that in turn, were we to discover the same thing on a planet far, far away, that the effect would, of course, be the same for our viewing. This applies not only to planets, but to stars… which entails that any given star visible at night from anywhere on earth could, in fact, be long dead. The last rays of light emanating from its hypothetical death toward your eyes would still take an astounding journey through time and space to reach you, depending on its distance from your position. The North Star, for example, is about 680 light years away, according to Bryson’s research. Thus, if it were to burn out today, it’s death would go unnoticed until around the year 2700.

Interestingly enough, that also means that the North Star could have burned out sometime in the 14th century, and we just haven’t realized it yet.

Nuggets of grand information and knowledge such as this are contained within this piece of literature. It is a thinking book, and gets you wondering about tangents that lead you past imagination and wonder, and into the fantastically endless and insane realm of science.

Obviously, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys both the scientific mystery and the tragedy of history… as well as an inspiring read.