Time and time again, I come across people who don’t believe that artists and designers should be paid for their time. “How desperate must they be,” some say, “to charge for something other people offer for free?” Or, one of my favourites, “It’s a hobby, why should I pay for something someone enjoys doing?” Or, as I heard just today, “Well if the [client] isn’t making money from it, why should they pay?”
So let’s talk about this.
It seems difficult for a lot of people to grasp the concept of value in non-tangible items, so I’ll try to make this simple. When you pay for art — whether it’s a drawn, written, painted, or designed — you are paying for two things:
• the final product
• the cost of production
The cost of production varies between mediums. Sometimes it includes a physically tangible cost, such as buying cardstock for sketch cards, or sculptor’s clay for a model, or paints for a watercolour. Sometimes, there is no physically tangible cost (such as in digital artistry or web design).
But there is always the cost of time and effort. A piece of art can take a couple of days on average — often more! — during which time the artist could be doing something else.
That is the key here. You are paying for the time and effort that goes into the piece(s) you have requested. You are paying them to be spending time on you and your project instead of using that time to make money elsewhere. You are paying the artist to not only deliver a product, but for the process and effort of making the product, as well as — don’t forget — dealing with YOU.
Refusing to pay for artwork because it is someone’s hobby is like saying that anyone that enjoys what they do should not be paid. Refusing to pay for artwork tells an artist that you like their art enough to have some, but it is still worth absolutely nothing to you. Refusing to pay for artwork because other people offer it for free means you think that artists are not free to set their own value.
Is art a hobby? Yeah, it sure is! But it is also our business. Our business is not automatically free because we enjoy what we do. Our business is not automatically free because we could be spending time doing a similar thing for ourselves.
When art is done as a personal hobby, the artist is doing it for their own satisfaction, even if the final product is gifted to someone else. When art is done as a business, it is done for the satisfaction of someone else.