Today’s “No Excuses” Is a little different. It’s less about an excuse that I’ve been told and more of a misconception people have.

Last week I did a “Tutorial Tuesday” on becoming a professional.  You can read the post yourself, but in a nutshell it’s about getting paid for the artwork you create for other people.  After I posted it I received several questions and I realized many of you have a terrible misconception as to what it means to be a professional. So I figured I’d use today to clear this stuff up.

First and foremost, I’m a very strong believer that you should always be compensated for the work you do.  In your career, especially early in your career, you’ll be asked to do alot of work for free.  They’ll be alot of excuses as to why you don’t deserve to be paid: “You don’t have enough experience,” “You’re too expensive,”  “Artists are a dime a dozen, if you won’t do it some one else will,”  “It’ll give you great exposure, you should have to pay me to be allowed to work on it.”  There is a ton of excuses. But the bottom line is if someone is going to benefit from your artwork, you should be paid for your time, skill, effort, and supplies.  Any reason they give you is bullshit, and you have every right to refuse them.  If every artist out there did this, it would force these people to pay.  There will be no cheep and free artists to exploit, and we have many more paid artists in the world, and far less poor and starving artists.

Does this mean you NEVER do art for free?  Certainly not.  You do artwork for charity, for your friends and family. Sometimes there is a project you truly believe in and you want to contribute artwork to help its success. You’ll do things for free because you’re so passionate for the concept.  But if some stranger, whether a private individual or a representative of a company, wants you to do free artwork for them as a “trial run” or “for exposure” and don’t want to pay you for your hard work, then tell them to hit the streets.  If they don’t have enough respect for you to pay you for the artwork, what makes you think they have any respect for you at all? All those promises they make will not be upheld if you fall for their scam.

This brings me to the point I wanted to make.  When you are paid for your artwork, you are a professional artist. PERIOD.  The misconception I kept getting last week was that somehow the amount of money you make, or who you work for determines if you are a professional or not.  But that’s not the case.

Being a professional artist does not mean you make millions of dollars at it.  If that were the case you’d be able to count the number of professionals in the world on one hand.

Being a professional artist does not mean that your art job is your sole income. I don’t know any artists my age who does ONLY one job to support themselves.  Even if art is most of their income, they still need something else to make it through the rough patches.

Being an professional artist does not mean you work for another company.  Though many pro artists make great living working at videogame companies, or animation studios, or comic book publishers, this is not required to be a pro.  In fact, most professional artists are freelance, which means they work for themselves. Companies or individuals hire them on specific projects.  I’m going to be honest, though there are many months where this is a nerve racking experience. You may not know if you’re going to drudge up enough clients to make ends meet, it beats the hell out of going to an office every day.  I’ll take my unstable, uncertain, feast or famine life style of freedom rather than punch a clock at an office every morning. Others disagree with me and like the stability, and thats fine. It’s just not for me.

So if being a professional has nothing to do with how much money you make, being the only money you make, or who you work for, then what makes you a professional?  Simply being paid for the work you do.  If you charge $2 for a drawing, and you only work on drawings between shifts at the restaurant  you work at.  You are still a professional artist.  You charge $10 for a bead sculpture, and only work on them on weekends?  You’re still a professional artist.  As long as you are being paid for the work you do you are a pro.  It doesn’t matter how much you charge, or how many hours you work a day, as long as you have clients paying you for your work, your a pro.

That’s why it’s so important NOT to work for free.  By accepting some sleazy project director’s proposal to work on thier project for free, you decided you don’t want to be a professional.

I know so many of you out there lack the confidence to believe this is true.  You don’t think your artwork is worth any money. Or you don’t think your time and effort matters. Or you think you suck and that it’s almost like stealing to take someone’s money for your “terrible art.”  But please take my word for it.  If someone is asking you for your artwork, it means they like it.  And if they like your artwork enough to want it for themselves, they should like it enough to pay for it.  Your artwork IS worth money. Your time is worth even MORE money, and your artwork is wonderful, that’s why people are asking for it.

Don’t let jerks take advantage of you.

Don’t let your insecurities rob you of your time and skills

Don’t make any excuses

Be a professional

Be paid. You deserve it.


Thanks for reading as always!  Tomorrow I’ll be showing off some sketches.  In the mean time check me out around the web!

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And remember: Make Comics! Not Excuses!