My work is worth paying for (and so is yours)

This isn’t something I usually write about but.. And it may be a teensy bit controversial, but I feel like it’s a topic that needs more discussion out in the open.. And I’d love to hear what you think. Especially if you’ve been in a similar situation..

Recently I was contacted by a stylist who was interested in using one of my designs. She wanted to decorate a cake to be used in a photo shoot for a national magazine Downunder. That sounded like a fun thing for my pattern to be part of! But it didn’t happen, because they wanted to use my design for free. All I would get was ‘exposure in a national magazine’.

Well, ‘exposure’ doesn’t pay any bills. And I don’t know about you, but it is very rare that I look anything up that I’ve seen in a magazine. Or if I intend on doing so, it is pretty likely that I will forget. So exposure doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Maybe it was in the past.

I’m sure this stylist is being paid fairly for her work, as is the photographer and everyone else who may be involved in the shoot (who bakes the cake?), so it feels a little insulting that my work isn’t worth enough to pay for. And it’s not like I demanded thousands of pounds! I’m realistic; I know I’m not that well known a designer. But still, my work has worth and it’s only fair that I be compensated for its use.

I wonder if they would ask Disney or Orla Kiely to let them use a design for free?

I know that with many magazines this sort of usage for exposure deal is the norm, but that doesn’t make it right. I don’t blame the stylist for this state of things. But if a stylist (or whatever) loves and wants to feature/use the work of a designer, pay for it. Even if it’s not the done thing. Be the change you want to see in the world.

You might say that since I wouldn’t actually be doing anything, I should’ve just said yes, sit back and wait for the exposure. But the thing is, I put quite a lot of effort into my designs. I don’t just pull them out of thin air. Hours of sketching, maybe even some research, go into each design. As well as the work that goes into the actual final vectorized design.

This is work. It’s my job. And I deserve to be fairly compensated for it. And most definitely if you’re being paid for the thing/service you propose to use my work for.

It may have been different if the piece had been about me / Polka & Bloom, but it’s not. My work would have been used as part of someone else’s. With only the ‘exposure’ of credit, which would probably have been a tiny line at the bottom of the page, as ‘payment’.

I asked them for $100. You may think that is a lot or maybe that it’s too little. It seems fair to me at this point in time. But the number as such isn’t that relevant. What is relevant is that if they really liked my work enough (love it, even!) they would want to compensate me for its use. And by ‘me’ I mean anyone, you get that, right? I’m just an example. :-)

As I said, the stylist, photographer etc get paid, maybe props are hired etc. Surely, paying for use of a design would just be another biz expense? I know, I know, magazines are struggling, things aren’t what they used to be. Well, ya know who else is struggling? Designers and all kinds of creative people.

It’s about respect in the end. I respect photographers and stylists and editors etc. That’s why I buy magazines and don’t just rely on pretty pictures I can look at for free on the internet. I like to think that the people featured in some way in a magazine are being fairly compensated. Even if a magazine/stylist/whatever can’t afford to pay lots, atleast pay something. Show that you value and respect the value of creative people.


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