The Cost of Working for Free

A fellow artist once chided me for working for free as a makeup artist and production designer, believing that it devalued my work as an artist. In my mind, I believed it a good way to gain exposure as a new artist, network with others in the industry, and get practical experience. However, it is a slippery slope. It is far too easy to be taken for granted and fall into a place where one’s work loses value because it was produced for free. I don’t have the answers, on this topic. But it is good to read another’s exposure of the issue. Jessica Hefland explores this in her article Why Are Designers Still Expected To Work For Free? in reference to Doubleday’s recent announcement of an open competition for the design of the cover of Dan Brown’s upcoming book. Undoubtedly this will stir up the hankering to submit for gratis. But should it?

One of the most compelling arguments that has come out of the free-work conversation is that agreeing to it perpetuates a culture in which creative work goes unpaid and undervalued. As Helfand argues, it also sends a message that art and design are more like hobbies than careers. “If you are lucky, the fun and easy part is a lovely benefit,” she writes in her email. “But it is still business, and it is absolutely work—ergo, something changing hands that deserves compensation, plain and simple.

Should artists work for free?

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BeccaBe

Rebecca Cramer, raised in Oklahoma City, OK, had her first job in design, layout, and printing of concert posters for artists like B.B, King, Bobby Blue Bland, and Wanda Jackson at her family’s offset and lithography business, Colorcraft Poster Company. Her career history includes editing and managing the review process for The American Ornithologists’ Union’s magazine The Auk, as well as teaching English at the secondary and post-secondary levels. In 2008 she completed a Master’s in Applied Linguistics (TESOL) at Oklahoma City University. One constant has been Becca’s love for the arts and her penchant for creating, and she approaches design and construction from an artist's perspective. She has worked such diverse media as silver-smithing, collage, and found-item art. She loves repurposing things others throw away into something useful and beautiful. Early on, Becca displayed a passion for makeup early, when at the age of two she broke into her grandmother’s lipstick stash and applied lipstick to herself, the vanity, and the walls. In June 2012, she moved to Denver to become a makeup artist. Under the name Becca Be, and Fetch, her work has appeared in several fashion publications, including Dark Beauty, Jute, and Kai’outi magazines. She has also worked with designers for Denver Fashion Week, and with ADCD’s Paper Fashion Show (both as artist, and Production Designer).

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