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Are you afraid to turn away work that doesn’t pay? Is “exposure” enough for you? I think these questions are substantial for any artist trying to become a professional.

Kansas City Symphony at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts by David Bickley Photography

The average professional in a non-art related field would likely answer with an instant “no.” For some reason though most artists are willing to accept little if any monetary compensation for their time and effort. Why is this?

When did the term “byline” become synonymous with sufficient compensation? Yes, a little pro-bono work can go a long way to establishing your reputation and even further if you choose the work carefully. Yet so many artists allow themselves to be taken advantage of simply because they don’t know how to break the cycle. Say for example you’re approached by a client that says “we love your work and have something we’d like you to do for us. We’ll give you credit for the piece. We don’t pay for what you do because so many others will do it for free.”

Photographers specifically (because that’s what I know), what does that really say to you? To me it says “We like your work but not enough to invest in it because we think anyone can do the same thing. You should be grateful that we’re even offering to publicly acknowledge that you created the work.” It’s a slap in the face that isn’t going to change any time soon. The only thing that you can do is stand up for yourself and your craft…and you should. I say it all the time…you have to value yourself before you can expect anyone else to.

Yes, there are companies that I trade services with, and several publications that I am happy to be a part of because I love what they do. In the end it comes down to how you feel about the relationship. I don’t have a single client (pro-bono or paid) that I don’t absolutely love working with. It’s that way because it’s a relationship based on mutual respect and respect is earned by holding true to yourself.

When you first start out yeah, you’re going to have to give more than you get. At some point that has got to change though in order to progress. Asking to be paid can be a nerve wracking thing for a budding artist. What if you get turned down? What if you don’t get any more work?

What if what? If you’re not getting compensated somehow in the first place, what are you really losing?

Anyway, I’m done ranting on this topic. I just get annoyed by seeing people allow themselves to be taken advantage of simply because they don’t know how to say “no.”

See you tomorrow,