On paying for creativity

A couple years ago (coincidentally, within the same week) I was approached by two different organisations for virtually the same project: to attend an event as live artist, providing custom lettering for attendees on the day.

·      One was a local not-for-profit organisation that provided support services for the disabled. They asked me to provide a quote that they accepted and paid upfront and in full. (As a side note, the event itself was a joy to attend, and it was incredibly humbling to have the opportunity to hear and write a little piece of these people's stories: thank you.)

·      The other was a very large, very well-known international company with labels spanning several industries. They offered me a gift-voucher and some *trigger word warning* 'exposure' through their social media channels - but only in the context of promoting their own event. I responded with my usual rate for work of this kind, but unfortunately they didn’t have the ‘scope’ to provide monetary payment. (I interpreted this wording to mean that they had the necessary funds but not the inclination, needless to say I turned this opportunity down.)

There are times when accepting work without monetary payment can be a great opportunity – payment in-kind can be valuable when its right for you and your business, for a cause or project that’s important to you. But some offers feel like selling out – minus the part where you get paid. 

Finding the right balance is different for everyone, and takes practice, however if there’s an imbalance in the amount of labour, effort or risk involved for each party, it’s probably time to walk away.  Remember that there’s value in your time and skills, and as much as you can, don’t accept offers that fail to recognise that: every time you do, you’re helping to hold our industry up.

I’ve worked with many not-for-profits and small businesses (I’m a small business myself), and they all pay their bills; it’s why I’m able to pay my bills too.

Doris Chang