Wow this seems like a no brainer doesn’t it – have a product and charge for it. In the corporate world I wouldn’t need to write this blog but in the realities of the arts this elephant in the room needs talking about. 

When I worked as a full time artsworker I had access to a bank of emerging and professional creatives. I can’t tell you the number of times I got phone calls from people offering artists, musicians and performers the “opportunity” of playing, performing or exhibiting at events, for free. People touted experience and exposure as their justification of why fully trained, experienced people on low incomes should share their skills and experience, use their own expensive equipment and valuable time for no pay. I can only imagine what would have happened had I asked these same folk to spend their weekends doing their jobs for free in order to gain a bit more experience or exposure, they’d have laughed me all the way to the loony bin. Yet people make these requests of creatives all the time.

And so this flow on continues and artists become trapped in a cycle of working for nothing and consequently permanently hunting for what they in turn can get for free. Whether it’s within their own industry by demanding discounted recording deals, shafting galleries on their commissions or taking a ruthless mindset towards competition in the form of other creatives. It also balloons out to other areas of life from government scams with the tax office and social security to sofa surfing and bumming coffees off mates. It’s a system that makes everyone feel like crap. Especially artists who are working extremely hard for little or no financial return and trapped in a cycle of poverty consciousness frowned on by society at large and friends and family in close quarters.

This is why I charge for what I do and believe you should too. I’ve been working in the arts for 20 years and over that time I’ve gained lots of experience and insights. I’ve invested in myself financially and time wise. I have studied my art and industry and have university degrees, community college and vocational training. I have volunteered where I needed to learn more on the job. As a musician I have performed for free when I needed to build on my performance skills or test new material. I have built products and skills and they have a value.

I want to share what I know with other creative folk because I love the arts and I believe in artists. I’ll blog for free and share insights on my Facebook page for free and have free resources available to get people going, but I won’t offer my 1 on 1 consulting services, artists workshops or other professional services for a cent under what is reasonable given my experience and target market. I want creatives who work with me to think this way too. If you genuinely need more experience and exposure or additional training and education, then yes you’ll need to do that for free, just like any other professional would. If your service or product has no market then you can expect to make no money there either, just like any business owner.   But if you have a quality creative product or service and you want to rely on your arts for any part of your income then you need to be charging for it.

So my wonderful artists please assess your market, realistically value your work, skill level and product quality and set your price. Then go forth and charge people for what amazing skill, service or product you offer because the arts are valuable and YOU are valuable. Go forth and prosper!

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