kate bohdanowicz writer

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Why are artists and writers expected to work for free?

What’s the difference between a plumber who comes to fix your loo and an artist who paints a picture on your wall?  

Well, you wouldn’t dream of not paying the plumber but you might think the artist will work for free. For the exposure maybe.

I know a lot of artists. My other half is one. Most of these people are skint and are constantly being asked to do things for free. Much of the time they’re asked by people who have a lot more money than them.

Words and art are seen as free commodities. We can all string a sentence together and use a crayon or paintbrush right? But we can’t all do that very well. I like to think I’m pretty handy with a drill but I couldn’t do a decent job, which is why I pay professionals to do it for me.

As a writer I don’t work for free unless that is my choice and I am helping out a charity or a friend. I have to eat and pay my bills. Remember, my other half is an artist so we don’t sleep on a bed of £20 notes.

Recently I have come across some pretty distasteful working practices and conditions in my industry, such as (fast-growing, wealthy) ‘content farms’ offering small, time-consuming jobs at 3-6p a word.  Ok it's not for free but that is not a living wage!

At the same time I’ve heard a lot of tales from well-established artists (and writers and actors) being asked to provide their services for free or for expenses. Sometimes it’s just helping with an idea. Other times it’s to do an actual piece of work. I don’t agree with anyone asking another person to work for free and the more people who agree to do so, the more accepted it becomes. Remember, you wouldn’t ask the plumber to navigate your U-bend for free. 

Carry on like this and there won’t be any artists or writers left. And then think of how dull life would be.



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Comments (2)

  1. Jen J:
    Sep 30, 2014 at 01:11 PM

    Ah the downside of creativity :(

    The amount of work I did for free as a freshly graduated knitwear designer, or work in exchange for clothes! Most companies would say they were doing me a favour by giving me work.

    I can't even begin to say how many 'special' projects I did for job interviews, just to be rejected and then spot my designs in the shops a season later.

    Its a harsh creative world out there. Should've become a librarian.

  2. Kate Bohdanowicz:
    Sep 30, 2014 at 02:41 PM

    That's terrible to hear. I hope you pursued the companies that stole your designs.

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