Stephen Silver-Say NO to FREE!


We ran across this great little video from Stephen Silver, cartoonist, illustrator, character designer, caricaturist and instructor. Stephen drops some wisdom in regards to just saying NO to clients asking you to do work for free. I cosign this in a BIG way!

I even ran across a “contest” recently that required all people submitting to give up ALL rights to their work. This meant that even if you didn’t win, your artwork became their property and they could use it in whatever way they chose. If you won the contest, your prize was that they used your artwork in their online comic and your name got good exposure. No they didn’t pay you if you won either and yes they still owned your artwork and could sell it or do whatever they chose with it without being obligated to pay you anything. So big win for them and big waste of time and energy for everybody who submitted artwork to them.

So please be careful out there folks. As artists it’s important to know what you are signing up for and what you are giving away. There will always be someone trying to take advantage. Be as informed as you can not only about your craft but also about your business and your rights as a professional. Enjoy the vid.



  1. Jean Mercier

    Can’t agree more. Yes, sometimes, it takes me 2 min. to write a poem, but it took me 52 years to hear these rhymes. 🙂

  2. Bruce Ross

    Agree whole-heartedly! Can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “don’t take too much time to do it…” or “you can do this in your sleep…”. If you DO IT for free and word gets around, you’ll have a tough time charging ANYTHING for your work. People are, and always will be looking for a “deal”, but they have to understand that we (and our families) have to eat too. They will be your “buddy” as long as you’re not charging for your work, but watch how fast they dump you when you charge a fee. Good word Stephen! Rant-on!

  3. Susan

    Thank you, very well said. Yep, people need to pay for artwork and that is the real truth.

  4. Steve Delmonte

    Damn good!! This video should be required at art school too.

  5. theartofpuro

    Great post!Totally agree:)

  6. Karlo

    This guy Steven is so right , in 40 years of being in this business I have never known it to be as bad as it is, trying to get something for nothing , exploiting young illustrators starting out , of course they will try it on with them, they know they are a captive market .
    I have done work in the past where I know full well I should have charged more because I know I could have got it. But have never yet been asked to enter one of these ” Kellogs Cornflakes kiddies colouring competitions” where illustrators are asked to submit work done for nothing and the winner gets the job, so we are led to believe.

    Rant on Steven , you know you are right

  7. Jim Richardson

    Absolutely, SAY IT AGAIN! Avoid, there are a lot of people looking for free work. Some are ok, but most are not. Avoid ads with: I’m offering 50% of everything,I’m only looking to find someone to create with at the moment, no compensation. If we can work together we can split costs and profits. AND If all goes well, we will intend to use you as our ongoing animator. Please keep in mind that this is no budget for all of us until it is picked up.
    Its ok to apply to find out more information, but don’t work for free, especially if you don’t believe it the project! Use your time to make your own work.

  8. Stuart Araki


    And to add to this: Don’t do thing for CHEAP. As Jean Mercier states above, “…sometimes, it takes me 2 min. to write a poem, but it took me 52 years to hear these rhymes.” You should respect your profession and training enough to get a fair price for your work! You may need the money, but you’re also bringing down yourself and the whole industry by working cheap.

  9. Tom Cleaver Art

    Well said, Steven! I’ve shared this on my Facebook page and I encourage others to do so, too.

    Freebies cut all our throats. Why would anyone pay for art when they can get it for nothing?

    Equally, organisations need re-educating. It’s not acceptable to ask others to give away their time, effort and materials gratis. It’s exploitative and an insult. Fairtrade isn’t just for coffee producers.

  10. Mallory Moad

    This can apply to performers as well!

  11. Jean Claude

    You know, Stephen hit the bullseye when he said that it took “40 years and 10 minutes” to do that sketch. People in general don’t realise that we artist / illustrators that we had to work our asses off and sacrifice a lot in order to achieve and do this career. I always say to them, ” You know what fella? It’s 10 % talent and 90% hard work, studying colour, light and shade, anatomy, gesture drawing, Life drawing, composition, art theory.. I can go on and on. IT’S A GOD DAMN SCIENCE IN ITSELF!!!”.


    Cheers mates!

    Jean Claude

    Montreal, Quebec

  12. Colin Hayes

    Aaaaaaaamen! Excellent advice and well said. I wish we’d all heed these words. Even getting talked into jobs with ridiculously puny budgets can bring rates down overall. It know times are tough (trust me, I KNOW personally), but we need to understand the value of what we have to offer.
    So, thank you for the rant.

  13. janicefried

    Right on! Rant on.

  14. Richard Deverell

    Illustrators and artists should have a second income stream then you can just laugh at these time-wasting jokers.

    • WilsonWJr

      What other income streams have you tried and found success in Richard? I know a lot of artists don’t consider these types of things or don’t even know that they can. What would you advise?

  15. Thomas J. Herring

    I also have a problem with Elance. The bids on most of those jobs are a joke. Now that we are in competition with the world, a lot of bottom feeders come out.

    Then there’s my favorite line: If you do this for (name your crap price offer), I’ll throw business your way. Yeah Riiiight.

    As for a second income, I drive a school bus. You don’t make as much as you think.

  16. Laura D'Argo

    Well, said! With over 30 years in the business, cheap is becoming the new qualifier. What happened to quality?

  17. Susan

    You have said it the best way ever…Thanks!!!I have passed it on to both artists and some capitalists that need to know the truth of all art costs real $$$!


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