Stop Taking Advantage of Your Artists

Stephen Yavorski
4 min readAug 11, 2019

Alright, now that I have your attention, let’s get the first thing out of the way. If you’re reading this, you are probably not a client of an artist. You ARE the artist. Your clients are not going to care about this article at all, but it is in your interest to read through and consider what is in this article.

Without further ado, I bring you a familiar song:

Let’s start out with the beginning of our scenario. You just received a direct message… or maybe an email from someone inquiring about hiring you to do some work for them. You’re excited. Doing artwork is your passion, and even figuring out how to make it for someone else’s idea makes you happy.

After a few back and forths, with you asking qualifying questions for what will be involved and how much of your time this will take up, you come up with an estimate, priced accordingly and fairly… even a little on the inexpensive side possibly because you have mutual friends and want to give them a bit of a break…

In response to your price, they give you a rebuttal, asking for a “quick sketch”, just to see what direction will be taken for the artwork. The overall look, etc… This is where things start to spiral out of control, exponentially. Soon, they attempts to lower your price even more, then even more, trying to take advantage of your time, not understanding the value of it.

Here is an example of one recent conversation I had with a would-be client, though I personally have no interest in working with someone like this: for the enlarged screenshots

This is a problem, but it not their responsibility to take care of. It is yours; the artist. Many times, especially early on in your career, but also later, you will be asked to produce work for free, in one way or another. In the above example, I was asked for a lower price, which is almost always to expected with any client, but the main thing to note is that unnecessary work was requested. A two min sketch, which would have been a waste of both our time… The other thing worth noting is the “rough sketch” to see if they’d want to move forward fully with the work. “I love your work!”… yeah, but not enough to know what type of work I do, apparently.

The rough sketch to see if they want to fully commit to me as their artist is the big one and it really set the tone for the rest of the conversation. It’s a HUGE red flag and I’ll tell you why, because there are two main reasons for it being a big red flag. The first being that you want to know they are committed to you. It’s obvious when we say it, but when we’re involved with it, it can be overlooked. If they are not committed to using you as their artist, for a commission, for an album cover… whatever. They can easily flipflop and flake out on you to someone else, meanwhile you put in unnecessary work to a project that isn’t even going to end up being yours.

The second reason is that by saying it is ok to just do a sketch for them, when the initial thing is to have a more involved gig is basically giving them the go-ahead to use your idea, which they don’t know how to think of themselves, or possibly don’t want to put in the effort to think of themselves. They are going to use your visual communication skills to get the idea they want to use, then ditch you, taking advantage of you and your time.

Now, what are measures you can do to prevent yourselves from being taken advantage of? There are 3 main things I would advise:

Know what your time is worth.

It might be worth more than you currently value yourself. Evaluate your worth as an artist and visual communicator and stay true to that. That is the first step and that leads me in to the second thing

Be diplomatic with your to-be clients, but also be very firm.

You cannot let them think it is OK to walk all over you, devaluing your time, energy, and skill-sets.


No exception. Especially with friends and family you need to use this because your “friends” and “family” are usually the ones that try to use your time for free the most. People that you don’t know, more often, at least in my experience don’t try to imply you owe them free artwork and understand that this is your career more easily. You can download a template version of the contract I use for yourself and of course change it up to suit your specific needs. Contracts are extremely important. They not only protect you, but they also protect the client. It’s piece of mind for both parties and it helps both ends know exactly what is going to be involved in the commission. Timeframes, pricing, delivery and pickup… all of this is extremely helpful to both you and your client and it offers comfort. By both of you signing that contract, you both know you are both made a commitment and can hold each other accountable. A well thought out contract should be fair for everyone and cover the important details of the commission.

Be firm. Be inspired. And don’t let clients weigh your drive down. There will always be clients that want to take advantage of your work. Nothing will change that, but we can change ourselves and empower ourselves as artists to not accept being disrespected and devalued. That is my message and rally-cry to you artists.

Have a great day!

-Stephen Yavorski

(optional link for the contract template download)