I don’t often use this blog for soapboxing about artistic issues, but this comic deserves a bit of an introduction. It’s part of a short conversation I had with my mother (a freelance writer and former cartoonist) a few months ago while working on an illustration job. I’m proud of how far I’ve come in the past year in terms of understanding my financial worth and being unafraid to charge money for what I do, but moments like this still leave me a trembling, anxious wreck. Money and creativity have a fraught relationship at the best of times, and somehow financial matters always manage to cut to the heart of many people’s insecurities. We often believe we’re worthless. That we’re frauds. That someone will come forward one of these days and expose us. It’s only a matter of time. Taking risks and charging a fair price for the services we offer opens us up for the ultimate confirmation of these fears. If someone refuses our price, we are indeed worthless.
Of course, this is a load of bullshit.
Charging people money for something you love doing shouldn’t be difficult, yet somehow it’s one of the greatest challenges facing new artists in the field. We’re steeped in mixed messages telling us that creativity is simultaneously priceless and worthless. “How hard can it be?” people ask, turning around in the same breath to babble about “talent” and “genius”. The attitude I encounter most often involves folks looking wistfully over my shoulder and saying “Oh, I could never do that” — as if drawing is some God-given jar of pixie dust rather than a craft honed over hundreds and thousands of hours. Conversely, onlookers or employers can be astounded at the amount of time and effort that goes into a job — “Surely it doesn’t take that long!” “But that’s so much work!”
How can we create a system where artists don’t have to overcome so many conflicting viewpoints simply in order to get paid for their work? Of course, a great deal rests on having the confidence to realize that self-worth and artistic worth are separate entities. Often it just takes guts to be calm and up-front about asking for your price. By being professional about our financial requirements, we set a precedent for other artists in the field. But it can be hard to know where to start. It’s a lesson I learn and re-learn every time I take on a new job or decide to increase my fees in relation to the amount of experience I’ve gained since starting out as a freelancer.
This is an awful lot of gabble for such a quick comic, but it’s an issue that’s really important to me, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts. If anyone wants to read more, I’ve included some helpful links to other essays on the subject at the bottom of this post.
Jessica Hische: The Dark Art of Pricing
Katie Lane: Why You Should Raise Your Rates
Katie Lane: Be a Freelance Rock Star
6 thoughts on “Worthy”
Yeah! Pricing. Thank you for the additional essays (just opened in brand new tabs), as this is a topic I’m in the thick of right now. I juuuuuuuuust started freelancing (as in sort of by chance, and with one amazing client) and the cut and dry of it in the Graphic Arts Guild for Designers and Illustrators book gave me that same “oh, I couldn’t charge THAT” feeling.
It feels like a taboo topic among the illustrators I’ve asked about how to price. They get all clammy and you can see the anxiety it causes. When I just wanna learn, ain’t no judgin’. SO, thanks for the articles I haven’t read yet.
Funny you mention this; Your reasoning is similar to the reasoning that brought me to the conclusion that I can no longer work on tall ships as a means to support myself. I have supported myself out of a backpack and making $8,000 to $10,000 a year, while at the same time holding a master’s license, a ton of experience and putting my life on the line for ships and organisations with questionable financial and safety practices. I look at what others in the maritime industry are making, and a shiver with disgust. I am good at what I do and I do it because I love it. But there comes a time when you have to ask yourself if you are making what you’re worth. I have finally found a place to work where that happens, and I count myself fortunate. Fortunate that I had parents and mentors who encouraged me to fight for what I am worth. Good on you for this comic and good on you for your thought process. And kudos to your mom!
Great article! It is such a challenge for creatives to balance doing what you love with making it pay the bills. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this.
Love that comic! I cannot imagine charging for anything I create. Sure I have made mentions or dropped a hint but I never expect it to happen. I guess I leave that to the elite.
Thanks for sharing. I think you are right in that there is a tension between creativity and money. I think this is lager than individual artists conflicts with placing value on their work. On a larger social scale we do not always financially support the arts. It is wonderful that you are recognizing that your work is of value.
This is a great comic, and such an important topic!