I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A $5 Circle

I got an email saying an employer was looking for illustrators and will pay $5/illustration. Okay. Here’s a circle. It seems like a fair trade for $5. After all, let’s think about the actual progression of events if I were to actually try to get my $5.

First, I have to turn on the computer, read the email, open Illustrator or PhotoShop, draw the circle, save it in both a jpeg and a final format, then compose and send my email with my bill for $5. I would also have to keep records of this munificence so I can properly pay my taxes – which means that I wouldn’t really be making $5 once I’ve paid my taxes on it. The customer might also want some revisions, so here are some alternate choices.

After deducting my time for more emails and bills, and assuming they won’t pay for 3 billing cycles (minimum), how much time could go into my hypothetical circle? Certainly more than 1 hour, and since minimum wage in the US is $7.25/hour, this isn’t a legally fair price to offer. We might as well pay these people for the pleasure of doing work for them.

“But”, you say, “I need printed samples for my portfolio!” Oh sure. Do you think a company willing to spring $5/illustration is going to treat your work with loving care or even cough up the $5? If you’re willing to essentially work for free, at least do it for a good cause instead of for blood-sucking vampires. There are lots of good causes out there who will praise you, thank you, and give you something for your portfolio – which also makes potential employers notice what a nice person you are since you do volunteer work for good causes.

Nothing good comes from $5/illustrations. You lose the rights to your work when you sell it, and they can profit as much as they’d like while you look for half-eaten hamburgers in the dumpster. When they get away with this kind of payment for services, it drives down the price of more legitimate employers. The only people who win in this are the employers, and artists are screwed as a group. Don’t do it.

I reluctantly deleted the email address for this particular vampire. I wanted to suggest sending the "Art Director” hate mail, but I suspect they could probably sue me and steal my circles in the process. Let’s just all think mean thoughts at the same time... Oh, alright, that’s probably not a good suggestion either. Let’s just hope karma works these things out, but somehow that feels an awful lot like believing in the “trickle down” theory. Maybe I’ll just put out an open invitation to vent your personal horror stories?


  1. Great post, Linda! I think we've all run across this kind of thing at some time or other. Undoubtedly some young aspiring artist will take the vampire up on his offer, and will learn the hard way. Again, thanks for this valuable post!!!!

  2. Thanks! I guess I needed to vent a bit, but if it helps anyone else, then something good comes out of it.

  3. Wonderful post, Linda! This carries over to folks buying art,too. They don't want to pay what the artist is charging for the art; which is frustrating for the artist, because in reality, the cost of time, materials and experience is so much more! Once again, great post!

  4. Aw, come on, you're an artist, you can just whip that out, right? How hard can it be? And you love making art, right? You'd do it for free, wouldn't you? (Ooooohhh, I so hear you on this one!) You forgot to mention the friend who came over while you were making your circle and said, "I should do what you do because it's so easy!"

    I think I need a chocolate milkshake...

  5. Now that you're pointing it out, I had to buy the computer and software and learn how to use it, so that should be amortized into my $5 as well. And you're right Indigene, the people buying art should get an idea of what goes into it. I'd like to think that many people would like to pay a fair price if they understood what's fair. Of course there's also a lot of people who really don't care if we starve because that can only make the art they buy appreciate in value after we die.

    I think I need chocolate too!

  6. Btw, I posted a link to it on Twitter :)

  7. Ah thanks! I feel like my world has just expanded!

  8. Linda, hey sorry I have been stuck in a thing (insert name of object) . Whoa! This circle resonates with me, you know. It reminds me of the experience of Nihilism, that feeling of nothingness, that moment of non consciousness between life and death.....

    I think it is worth much more then a fiver :)

    I love your analysis of the motions it takes to make the circle, and the variations :) Hate mail isn't worth it. Hate mail would be too good for this person :)

    I think that they are getting illustrators mixed up with volunteer charity workers... see you soon. Sorry I have been getting ready for a show here, trying to get another book together - well I have finished so I have spare time today yippeee!

  9. Good luck with your show and book Andrew! I'm sure you're making wonders and will look forward to seeing what you've been up to :)

  10. Oh, I love this post Linda. I can so relate. I just have nothing to add that hasn't already been said and said well.

  11. How'd I miss this one? Reminds me of the logo farms and writer mills that pay dick and only if they pick your stuff from hundreds of other submissions or pennies per paragraph. These are abominations and should have their plugs pulled. They give clients the wrong idea about the value of professional art, design and writing. Great post Linda!

  12. Thanks everyone! I may be speaking to the choir, but I love my choir :)