Should artists be paid?

Marketing | Artist

The Exposure Argument

painter-by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

“Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.” — Seth Godin

It happens all the time. Companies invite you to donate the use of your art in exchange for the prestige.

It used to drive me crazy when people would say — “it’s free advertising”.

Then I realized it depends on the situation.

Many artists say ‘I won’t do that unless I get paid. Why would you?’

Let’s consider an example: a book wants to use your art on their cover of their ebook.

  • What’s in it for you?
  • Are they willing to give you credit with a link back to your website?
  • Are they taking your work to benefit them and you don’t get anything back?
  • Sometimes, if your art is featured in a large publication it gives you prestige.
  • If you are exposed to a new market or people that you wouldn’t otherwise reach, that’s a benefit as well.
  • If it only benefits the other entity and I don’t feel a pull, I don’t do it.

Let’s consider the exposure angle. Am I willing to build a reputation in this way or is the cash more important to me?

Do I want to do this for philanthropic reasons?

Supporting a charity is a different consideration. If you’re drawn to a charity, you could sell work and donate a percentage to them, instead of giving them your work.

In terms of fundraising for the charity, they likely would only get a small amount for the work in a silent auction.

Be careful that you don’t devalue your work because people see that it’s been donated for free. That’s bad exposure, which is the opposite of what you’re going for.

What’s in it for me is sometimes intangible.

There may be a slight promotional element that gives you an ability to say — ‘look, my work is being featured in this prestigious place’.

They might give you high quality promotional photos that you can use in your social media.

It gives you an opening for a conversation about the event and that can lead anywhere.

People want to trade time for money or a thing for money. Unless it’s that tangible, they don’t think it’s worth doing.

For example:

You’re offered a fee for featuring your art and there’s no mention or a small mention. That’s likely the end of the transaction.

There can be a lot more value in the intangible promotional benefits.

It gives you credibility. When you are endorsed by a respected source, it gives a potential customer confidence that your art is worth purchasing. It’s proof that ‘this artist is at a certain level.’

You are able to put that credibility on your website.

Here’s what happened when we went to Hollywood for a swag event.

View at

If you do it for free, leverage the exposure

In order to get the benefit of the ‘free advertising’, you must be prepared to self-promote.

Don’t be nervous about promotion. Share your successes. I often hear artists say they’re uncomfortable posting about this type of event. They have this idea that self promotion is a no no. Your friends and customers like to see positive news and want to support you.

You’ve got to be ready to make the most of it.

People are shy, so they feel they can mention it once and that’s enough. They worry about posting too many times about it; that people will get tired of it.

Most of the time, your posts are viewed by a small percentage of your followers. Social media is transitory — algorithms determine your viewers, so you have to work to ensure you are seen.

Put it on the front cover of your website with a click through to the sales page.

Create posts on:
Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and put it in your newsletter or email list
and then do it again with a slightly different focus.

Be creative in your marketing.

You get the idea.

Pin your promotional post to the top of your pages.
Reply to every comment you receive.

Be prepared for the benefits that may come. Get high quality images of the work online, make sure your pricing is updated and you have shipping options for the orders that may come in.

You never know where something will take you.


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