As you guys know, I've been teaching at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. I love it there, and will be returning in the Fall. I have had some great students, dedicated artists who are ready to learn. As you can imagine they're eager to get working, which some time makes them ripe for people trying to take advantage of them. Recently one of my students asked my advice about a company asking for free illustrations for a "non-profit" project. I wish I could say this kind of request was uncommon, but I've heard versions of it time and time again. I'm going to post my response to this artist here because I think it may be helpful to anyone trying to make a career illustration:
I think you already know my answer. IF they WERE looking to hire illustrators then they would HIRE them, not ask for freebies.
Please bear in mind that a non-profit does NOT mean no one is making money. When people write up business plans for an actual non-profit company they include plans for people's salaries, costs of services, etc. No one would fund a non-profit that did not plan for paying salaries to people working at the company. So people running a non-profit get paid. IF they want to hire an illustrator, they should pay him/her too. Maybe not top rates, but they should offer something other than dreams of potential future gigs.
Let me ask you something. Let's say one of this company's toilets clogged and they were thinking of "hiring" a plumber. Let's say they called a plumber and asked him or her to fix this toilet for free then if the plumber did a good job he or she could fix their pipes in the future should the need arise. How many plumbers do you think would be taking that job?
By working for free you're saying your time is worthless. Is your time worthless? Aren't you investing a tremendous amount of time and money in seeking an education in art? I get paid to teach you because you're paying into the college, right? How long do you think I'd stay at the school if they said "Hey, teach this class for free and if we like how it goes we'll maybe pay you for the next one."?
Try this. Go to a pizza place and tell them you want to try out a whole pizza and if you like it you'll start buying pizzas from them in the future. See what they say.
You're a talented, dedicated artist. But every time you give it away you not only short change yourself, but you short change every artist that comes after you. Simple as that.
Do what you're comfortable with, but please value your time and abilities. Don't give it away.
I'm not sharing this to embarrass anyone, nor do I intend to come off preachy. I'm hoping to do one thing; show fellow artist they are valuable.
Please, don't forget that.