Trawling from freelance site to freelance site looking for illustration commissions puts me in mind of the film “Tootsie” oddly enough, Dustin Hoffman’s character, Michael Dorsey, is schlepping from audition to audition trying to find work as an actor in New York. Every time they tell him he’s too old, he’s too young, too tall, too short…or just not right in some way. He quite rightly points out that he’s an actor, he can change himself to suit their needs but, they don’t care.
It’s a lot like that as an illustrator, but I guess it’s a creative industry standard. You’re doing way more legwork than you ever get back in terms of actual work, you’re swimming upstream with thousands of other equally talented artistic salmon and there’s a tiny handful of jobs out there. This of course leads to one of my personal bug bears, the dutch auction website.
For those of you who perhaps have been blissfully unaware of a dutch auction, or websites containing them, I shall briefly explain. Imagine if you will, an auction, although instead of the price rising in increments with the highest bidder succeeding, in a dutch auction, the price goes down and it’s usually the lowest bidder who wins. This is unbelievable douche baggery of the worst kind, instead of buying something, as you would do in a regular auction, all the creatives bidding on these sites are selling something – namely, themselves. And ridiculously cheaply. I have seen shocking bids, absolutely shocking. Say for example a client has gone on to one of these websites and posted up a job looking for an illustrator, say he wants 100 images and he says his budget maximum is going to be fifty bucks or pounds. Yeah, that’d be 0.50 cents or pence per image, doesn’t that just make you want to vomit? That’s how it makes me feel, and then to basically see the squiggling mass of desperate, desperate illustrators clawing over each other to debase themselves for this tight fisted nobodies amusement. I’ll do it for 25p, I’ll do it for nothing, I’ll pay you to let me do it!! Alright, the last two never happen, but that’s probably only because the websites don’t have that function.
It’s just not fair and it’s not right, and whilst I’m not guilty of ever doing it to that extent, I do more often than not, grossly undersell myself, and it kills me. I can’t stand seeing a piece of art with a mind bogglingly over blown price tag, particularly if it’s rubbish – (everyone’s a critic right?) But still, there’s got to be a line somewhere between underselling yourself, overselling yourself and just right. I need to find the Goldilocks band somewhere in all this madness. That sweet spot where dignity and self worth can sit in harmony with customer satisfaction and value for money.
I doubt I’m the only artist out there who’s plagued with feelings of angst over how much one should charge or accept in payment for your work. It’s art after all, it may have taken you hours or days, you may have put your heart and soul into it, how can you accurately put a price on that?
It’s tricky, very, very tricky. Client’s ought to know this, they ought to know that whilst they’re well within their rights to turn down massively over priced art where the artist has clearly priced it with their heart rather than their head, but at the same time, surely they’ve got to think “Here I am, offering someone ten dollars for a couple of days work, that seems fair…wait, maybe…just maybe it’s not fair…maybe it’s actually tantamount to slavery? Who can tell?!”
Meh, that’s just something that bugs me is all. There it is.