Do Designers Have The Right To Get Frustrated? With All This Exposure, When Do I Get Paid?

by Calvin Cox on August 10, 2009

Designers and Artists are always the target of clients, or potential clients, asking “Can you do this for free? ” I’m sure doing this project will get you “Exposed”. Even I use the word “Exposure” when talking to designers about Styleapple. But how do you know when to say “yes” and when to say “NO… I would like to get paid for this project?”

Well, the truth is, this question cannot be answered by a simple yes or no, but rather based on a few obvious things like a designer’s experience, talent, demographics, popularity and the hours it would take to do a project.

However, I don’t believe an artist should automatically say no to any offer of exposure just as a matter of principle. If you’re going to say no, do it as a matter of a prudent business decision. I believe that we should always get paid for our work. But payment is not always monetary. Payment can be in the form of a partnership collaboration, exchange of services and even exposure.

I know most designers/artists might object to what I’m saying but I think we have to be mindful of what exposure can do. I read a “Times” article a while back where a number of artists turned down an opportunity to display their work on Google Chrome simply because they weren’t getting paid. I’m sorry, but if Google wants to make my work available to possibly millions of potential customers and the only stipulation is that I do it for free… all I can say is where do I sign?

Let’s say Google pays me $1000.00 Dollars one time for some artwork. That money may last a week or two at most, depending on how close I am to the weekend or the end of the month. As opposed to getting my work seen by millions of potential customers, where the income potential is much greater. To me it’s a no brainer.

Don’t get me wrong, as a self proclaimed negotiator(especially after that real estate seminar) I would do my best to get both. But if it’s an either or situation, I’m choosing exposure. Like Kenny Rogers said in that song, the gambler “You’ve got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them”.  Basically saying you’ve got to know when a good thing is staring you in the face.

Most freelance designers and artists manage all aspects of their business. That being said, you have to be a great artist but a better business person. If you have to say no to exposure do it to someone who will expose your work to the 3 people that visit their website per month, not to Google who can expose your work to millions.  Like Seth Godin says, it’s not the invention that makes you famous, it’s the ability to spread it; paraphrasing of course.

How are you currently spreading your creativity, your artwork, your design perspective? So as much as we hate the word exposure (without pay) … I think we should carve out our own version of the word so that it’s not so ugly, but rather an awesome opportunity to grow our design business.