Have friends, family or even random people asked for your work or time for free?
How do you deal with people who ask for something that’s not your style or a not project you want to take on?
Hi, my name is Carrie Brummer and here on Artist Strong I help creatives like you build your skill and develop your unique artist voice. Today I talk about how to deal with strangers (and familiar faces) that ask for free artwork.
Let’s start with the quickest and easiest answer.
No is a full sentence.
It is completely okay to say no. And there need not be any explanation or justification for that no, either.
If you don’t want to do something when it comes to your artist practice, don’t do it.
You get to decide what you do when you have time to create.
Now let’s say you’re like my Canadian family who always add sorry to pretty much any sentence with a no, or feel like you need to explain further, here are a few sentences that offer a bit more explanation.
“Thank you so much for being interested but I’m fully booked right now.”
“I can’t right now.”
“That’s not really my skill set or interest, thanks.”
Here’s the other thing. It’s important to set expectations of how we want family, friends and strangers to interact with our art and our time.
If someone asks for work for free, be ready with a brochure or webpage that outlines your commission process and fees. This makes it clear people have to pay for your time. And if commissions really aren’t your favorite thing, set high prices. Then, it will feel worth your time to complete a commission. Feel free to use my commission page as a template for your own, I have it linked below.
For some reason it’s easy for us creatives to feel bad about setting boundaries and saying no, but ask yourself this: are your doctor or lawyer friends offering unpaid for medical or legal advice?
I remember having a friend of a friend approach me with a “special opportunity” to get my work in front of a potentially special collector, but I would, of course, have to offer my work as a gift. At the time I felt it was worth a try so I stopped my other projects and went all in. Once the work was framed I reached out to see about how to navigate next steps. And surprise of all surprises, she completely ghosted me.
I almost threw the artwork out. I was so mad, but my husband says it’s one of his favorite pieces so it now proudly hangs in my home. Unfortunately, if something seems too good to be true, my experience has been it probably is.
I found once I treated my art more seriously (here I mean believe in myself and my work more) it was easier to share pricing with family and I’m so very lucky that I’ve had all kinds of family members since invest in my art.
Ultimately, it’s up to you how to handle this. We have people in this community with absolutely no interest in selling their art. Great. Gift it. Abandon it. Donate it to charity. Or paint over it and start something new. You should never feel obliged to sell your work, and similarly, you should never feel obliged to give it away.
Take some time to really think about where you stand and how you want to respond. If you have some prepared answers ready to use it will be a lot easier to handle the situation when your friend, or random online stranger, surprises you with their “idea.”
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A special thank you to current patrons, I couldn’t do this work without your support.
How do you deal with friends, family, and just random people asking for your work or time for free? Please subscribe to my channel to get more content like today’s conversation and then share your take in the comments below.
Thanks for that reminder Carrie! Needed that! 🙂
You are MOST welcome Jackie! <3 <3
This is a very good topic, especially after our discussion this month on pricing. In the past, if it was a close family member, I would give it to them unless it was a painting that in my mind was not for sale at any price. I also had a few close friends over the years who have admired my paintings but who could not afford them. In those cases I would give it as a present for a special occasion. If it was in my “not-for-sale” category, I would give them something similar. I had a good audience for my paintings when we lived in the northeast, but living in Florida there is an entirely different clientele. I have a lot of paintings from my earlier days with no place to hang them and now I’m considering offering them to family when they come to visit just to give myself room for future paintings that will be more suitable to a Florida audience. Once I get a collection of the new paintings, I will start again with set prices based on cost and time.
Love how you’re considering this for yourself Deborah! I’m so glad you shared your thinking here, hopefully it offers insight for others as they think through their own goals. 🙂 See you in our next Q&A! 🙂
What do I do when I have a friend that can afford anything she wants and wants to have my art for free. She basically but me in the spot and assumed it would be at no cost when somehow I did not show so much value for the piece. I feel it’s wrong and I am hesitate to give ik the pieces now.
Hi Jacquelyn, I’m sorry you feel put in an awkward position and unfortunately this is all too common. As I say here in the video: no is a full sentence. If you have already agreed to give her a piece for free, it’s up to you whether you follow through on that or not. You can confront her and talk to her how you felt on the spot and pressure to give it to her when you plan to sell your art and then mention a price, or you can give it to her and make it a lesson for future events where this happens again (it will). Those are the only two options I see here, what about you?