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Saying 'no'

Unless you are willing to say ‘no’ you have no power to negotiate.


What about exposure?

What about experience?

What about money to pay bills?


Those can be totally legitimate reasons to take a contract with unfavorable terms. If exposure or experience are truly valuable to you (more valuable than money) then you should take a project, no matter how bad you are being exploited. But if you want to pay bills or own your work, you may need to be willing let some projects slip away.

It feels like a prisoners dilemma because you know that if you turn down a print on publication contract, there will be some other artist that’ll accept it instead. Art is a competitive field full of hungry and desperate up-and-comers who will sign anything if it means getting published. This can make it seem impossible to negotiate. Unfortunately, that feeling is not totally unwarranted.

Many clients cannot afford to pay more or offer better terms. Certainly, the AD you are working with doesn’t have all the power to conform to your needs. The ADs you are working with are gatekeepers but they aren’t gods. They have bosses and budgets that makes it impossible to offer the rates and terms they might want for you.


Visited the Legion of Honor in SF last week

Story time.

When I got engaged, I was still living with my parents. I had an ultimatum to make enough money to move out and support a family or the engagement wasn’t going to continue. That didn’t mean I needed to say ‘yes’ to more projects, it meant saying ‘no’ to all the ones that offered bad terms. It forced me to start looking for different types of work. In the end, I found a full time salary position that let me quit low paying freelance. Being in a position of need let me make the choices I wasn’t willing to make previously and I’ve never looked back.

Now that I’m unemployed again, I’m looking at my options. Beyond just the distastefulness of contacts that involve pay-on-pub I’m also growing to dislike work for hire jobs in general. Work for hire jobs require me to sacrifice more and more time if I need to make more money to support my family. I hate this idea. There is real value in owning the rights of my artwork and selling it outright is starting to look like a bad deal. I figure, if my work is valuable enough for a company to buy the rights to it, then it’s valuable enough to me to keep the rights to it. It’s a serious trade and I’m starting to think of it seriously. While this doesn’t mean I’m turning down projects yet, it does mean that things I own are first in line for my attention.

I guess we’ll see how that goes as it happens.



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