What do you do when someone offers you a commission or opportunity for your art but they only want to pay for your supplies?
Hi my name is Carrie Brummer and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you build your skill and develop your unique artist voice.
Someone inside my program called The Circle had an opportunity come her way and she asked,
“I was offered to paint a mural – a whole wall! The owner of this antique store (where he sells like 2000$ books) also will allow my paintings to be hung but he wants a 25% commission on anything that sells. Also for the mural he is only wanting to pay for supplies not my time.
There are some pros and cons here for me. What should I do?”
I know so many artists that have faced a similar question that I decided we need to dig into this today.
Here is my answer:
It really depends on what you want for your art. If you want it to be a source of income then that influences our perspective. If for example, you wanted to start painting murals, doing one for free could help other people see what you’ve already done so that you could be hired for other murals.
I know a speaker who did speaking gigs for an entire six months for free. He then was very sought after and thrived financially. So, doing a mural for free can be an opportunity, however, only if it feels good to you.
If you feel icky that someone has asked you to do it for free then I don’t think you should do it. And if you’re not interested in murals as a source of income or it doesn’t sound like fun no I don’t think you should do it.
A 25% commission is more than fair lots of galleries will actually charge upwards of 50 or 60% but they also do promotional things for you.
Bottom line: It’s important to note the icky feeling. If there is any “ick” I always say no.
However, knowing you might have interest in murals you could look for other work or find a space to create one and see where it leads! Maybe if you find one on your own terms you’d feel better about it – even if you don’t get money for it initially.”
I know so many artists who are so insulted (myself included) when we are asked to use our skills for free. And if you feel triggered by those requests don’t agree to it. It’s not worth it.
I am concerned that sometimes us artists don’t set ourselves up for the success we say we want, and conscious strategic free or discounted art making could be a path to financial success.
It will be much easier to be hired for murals if you have a portfolio of murals with rave reviews from the people who hired you to do it. And in the case of murals, you can’t exactly paint 6-8 of them in your art studio! So please remember to ask yourself: what is my real hope for my art? And, does this opportunity align with those hopes and dreams?
I know this conversation is going to rile people up. Some artists insist we are never valued enough for our art and should always charge. And I think that is true, especially for artists that feel that way. But there are no cookie cutter answers when it comes to art.
After all, we are a mishmash of people from all walks of life. So it is really important to reflect on what YOU want for your art and ask yourself: will this opportunity help you get there?
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Now, let’s start that conversation: I’d love to know what you think about this kind of opportunity. Or, have you had a similar opportunity and what was your experience? Comment below. Tell me all about it! I love hearing from you.
Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time here on Artist Strong.
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