Working for free


Time for a quick rant(s) to get stuff off my chest, please feel free to ignore:

Posts about companies asking artists for free work have popped up on my FB feed (see HERE and HERE). Artists are UP IN ARMS that they’re asked to do work for free. Look, EVERYONE who has a specialty in life is asked to do free work. Yes, even non-artists! Most people are asked by friends/family/co-workers/’pals’ which makes it harder to say no to than it is to Showtime/Stephen Fry. The big difference is that everyone else doesn’t act like they’re an oppressed minority. If you don’t want to do the ‘job’ just gracious say no (people remember when you act courteously and not go for the [I’m copywriting this] BuzzFeed Response) and move on. You are not a special snowflake because you make your living from an artistic job.

I’ve never heard a group of people whine as much about their jobs than semi/pro quilters. Yes, you don’t make what you should. Yes, your fabric line pays you squat, your book deal terms are atrocious, your quilts wouldn’t sell for what you think they should. So what? I’d wager to guess most people have jobs where they think they should be compensated more. If someone with a ‘regular’ job complained as much as pro quilters complain they would be asked “maybe you should think of changing careers/jobs” not just a pat on the back. If you want to continue accept the fact you’re in the quilt industry for god’s sake, you’re not a pro basketball player. Be happy that you make money off something you like doing, not spending time trying to figure out what you should (in theory) be making if the world was a fair place.

Posted in Quilting.


  1. LOLS. I love this post. Please note: I hear the same concerns in my field of work (I work at an art school.) You should hear how many calls I get from people looking for students to do work for free. The thing is, most students don’t respond to these requests at all – totally apathetic. So it works out in the end. No one does free work (unless they really love the cause behind the project) and the moochers go elsewhere. But I think your statement, “The big difference is that everyone else doesn’t act like they’re an oppressed minority.” is correct. And helpful. Just say no! Moving on… 🙂

  2. I’m o.k. with the first rant (maybe not how he went about responding to it) because Showtime went to Dan directly.
    I don’t have qualms with the Stephen Fry one because there are far too many fledgeling artists out there that Stephen doesn’t even know about & this can be their break.
    Just my 2 cents – I 100% agree about the second paragraph. (But then I work a regular job & buy 100% of my fabric, batting, & thread.)

  3. As a working graphic designer/photographer/copy editor/web designer/WordPress geek, I have to agree with pretty much everything you’ve said. If I don’t have the time, energy or desire to do the work for “free”, I just say “no”. I’ve taken quite a few freelance jobs with little to no pay, or for trade. It’s just more exposure and experience for me…and, I doing something I love doing, rather than sitting on my butt, watching TV. It makes me feel more productive, which isn’t a bad thing. If someone is really “all that” as a designer, they should just be gracious and say, “no, thank you for asking, though” and go about their day. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  4. I always think “Be thankful you are getting a request at all [for free or for $$], that means that someone out there has taken notice of you.” While it is up to each individual to do as they please and say Yes or No whenever you want, at least you are getting contacted. As to the quilting specific rant, I think this also applies to those that like to complain incessiently to volunteers about “Why don’t we do this? I don’t like this? We need more of X,Y, or Z?”…keep in mind that the people are you usually complaining to are VOLUNTEERS. They do this out of the kindness of the heart and because they believe in the cause. If you don’t like it, stand up and volunteer to help change it. Hehehe!!

  5. I do feel people ask artists for more free stuff/donations than the regular folk. However, sometimes exposure is worth something, but everyone has the chance to always say ‘no’, though people tend to make you feel guilty. But in our ‘new’ society, we ask college grads to ‘intern’ for free – get some networking and a resume item. So there is a lot of it going around, us artists arn’t the only ones. But I do feel when someone asks me to help them with their internet router or paint a room, they are more likely to offer up something in return.

    • I work with computers so I get asked to do a lot of free work. I know it’s different for artists because they can do something that’s not easily (or at all) learned by others but still.

  6. Well said. I come at it from a different perspective because I used to pay lots of $$ to get little tiny ads in magazines and online to promote my store and my brand. Now I’m getting free advertising whenever someone features me and my work (paid or not). Looking at it that way, I always come out ahead 🙂

  7. I’ve done a lot of quilting-related work for non-monetary compensation that includes copies of books & magazines, fabric, back-links, the undefinable promise of “exposure” and good karma. I am in a fortunate position whereby my spouse works outside our home to provide financial security for our family, so while I would love a cheque in return for work, sometimes a trade is all that’s offered and it is my choice whether to accept or decline. I appreciate monetary compensation for my work and in my experience, more of it is on offer these days than 5 years ago.

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