Should Artists get paid?
Should Artists get paid?
The reality of doing ‘what you love’…
and a bit of general ‘stuff’ appreciation…

Blog post by my long term friend Janice over at Uptight Clothing and a subject that always get questioned in our line of work and I’m sure many more…


This is the age old debate about what/if and how much artists charge for their wares….whether it be for a painting, jewellery, clothing,crafting, sculpture,photography, singing, song writing, general design etc…… the list is endless…
Yes, said artist may love what they do, they may even feel they have to do/express it, or they will explode!!!! But this is only one side of the coin…..if you are lucky, and say lucky, as people think it is luck, not hard work, determination, and sheer wit, will and hard graft! do this full time, ‘for a living’, then it needs to be , ‘for a living’. Many people think if it you do it for ‘love’, ‘Need’, a ‘calling’, like many artists of all areas, then it is priceless, a gift from you to them…after all, you love it right??? How can you charge, its not a real job, just a bit of fun…

Does this mean you should only get paid for jobs you hate??? My dad always said, ‘works not meant to be fun, they wouldn’t pay you if it was!’ I get the sentiment, and in many cases its true, most of us go to work because we have to earn a living, to pay the bills, of the home we live in, the bills, like water, electricity, heat, taxes, for food, all of us have to pay these bills, even the arty types! We don’t live on fairy dust and magic beans alone! Some may think it capitalist to ‘have’ to earn a living, to have possessions, but we all have to live somewhere, even if you are living on friends sofas…you can only do this, if that friend has money to , buy said sofa, ( even if you get it off freecycle, some one had bought it, as has some one make it, from ‘stuff’, whether that ‘stuff’ is beg, borrowed or bought, it has to start some where. If you think you can live freely, you are sweetly naive, or arrogantly stupid. The reason you can sleep on a friends sofa, in their warm house, eat their food, wash you body, wash your clothes, …etc…is because THEY have gone to work ( bloody capitalists!) to be able to do this, so you don’t have to, they are kind, you are a being a tit.

The buying and making of ‘stuff’, (which is the word I will be using for the general everything) has been around since the beginning of mankind, we are all animals, but sadly humans are lacking in the basic skill all other animal have, the ability to exist with out ‘stuff’, we need ‘stuff’, on a basic level, to keep warm, dry, fed, safe, alive, and on the next level….things to do, entertainment…, things to bring us pleasure, art, jewellery, a nice pair of shoes etc…

Its not shallow to want ‘stuff’, it helps us to express who are, makes life more comfortable, easier, they can inspire, move , motivate as….as well as covering the basic needs of being human. and its this exchange of ‘stuff’, that has made the world go round for centuries, in one way or the other, it would be great if we could all be self sufficient, but this would mean we would all have to be skilled in so many different areas just to exist. By each having our own skills and swapping them for cash, a very much easier way than trade for sounds ideall, but some one always gets screwed…and you don’t always want a dozen chickens and heap of marrows…so swapping things for cash, ie selling you skill/trade, then buying stuff, the modern term…can work very well, but only if we appreciate the true value of everything, can we know the cost of it.

What is shallow is not appreciating and taking for grated where and how the ‘stuff’ come to be. Everything form the chair you are sitting in, or the shoes you are standing in, how you are reading this, the electronic device, the glasses you may be wearing, the food you ate, of the plate you are off, to the bricks in the house you may live in, to the tiles in your bathroom, the design of the wall paper on your walls, the people that cut your grass, your hair, your rubbish collectors…..all these things/trades/jobs, come form a person who has trained, learned, practiced, put hours, days, weeks, years of time and skill in to what it has taken to make any bit of ‘stuff’ exist. Everything you see/hear, touch, taste, around you has been designed at some point by some one, it does not just exist, at some point, the idea was thought of, and put in to being by Someone. Somewhere.

See this font you are reading, someone, somewhere designed that. Every little thing.

When you finally realize that, you will be be able to appreciate that, yes you can put a price on Art, Craft, things made with love, because surely things made with passion and love are far more valuable than thing made in a factory, far away, that although the original idea may have been made with love, by the time its filtered down to mass production level, an ‘affordable ‘ level, there’s not much love left…But yes even theses things have a value, as they were still made by some one, who in turn was making a living , by doing something for money, so they can live. Do you understand the cycle yet!!!!!!!

But I digress…

‘Why should artists get paid…they love what they do right!?!?! Share the love man….’ and all that jazz….

A small in look to an artists life….( whether it be painting, crafting, sewing, jewellery, photography…etc….)
Writing as one, and knowing many…yes, are we doing what we ‘Love’ for a job….

While it can be true, that many self employed artists, don’t work the normal hours, for example 9-5, mon-fri. But trust me when i say we put the ours in! you just cant put them on a spread sheet… This schedule works for many business, as we have to start and end some where….But with these normal jobs, you know, the ones where you do something you don’t ‘love’ but endure, for a wage, you may even be lucky you have good friends at work, (you may even enjoy it, does this mean you get your paid docked??? )you may see them in your days off, you know the paid holidays you get, and pensions paid in a sick pay, and when you not working job seekers allowance, and maternity pay. A self employed artist, or any other self employed person, will not get any of these benefits.

So in exchange for doing what you ‘love’ for a living, you have to charge for your time.

Your time is not easily worked out on a fixed hourly rate. as you are not working by the hour.
A paid job may take you X amount of hours, for which you charge £X, you cannot work out an hourly rate for this based on time over £,
( like a different job of working a bar on an hourly rate, which has itself has training, but not going into that right now!)

Time/ cost need to be worked out differently in this case.

If you are a self employed artist, of any kind, its a bit more complicated….

What you are paying for in the piece of ‘hand made,or bespoke’ art you buy, weather it be clothing, painting, jewellery, music, etc… is not based on the final product and what it is made of, and how much those things cost, this is how mass produced things are costed, but are not comparable.

The cost of the ‘Art’, is in the getting to place where it now exists, as in the piece you are buying, ie, painting, corset, necklace get there, there is the years or training, research, practice… and the being able to continue in the future , more practice, research, training….to be able to keep doing what you do.

You may spend months experimenting on something that is a complete failure, and other months in something that is massive success, something things will sell, others wont and you don’t know until you do it, and it is your risk to take, and there is no hard and fast way of finding new and exiting things to make that will/not be a success, other than to try it, this is the things that have to be absorbed in to the ‘cost’ of ‘art’.

And all that bit is the bit we do for ‘love’, which takes up a fraction of the time, I am sure most artist would much prefer to spend all their time doing the ‘arty’ bit, for the ‘love’..but guess what???? There is the other side, that we all hate about being a self employed ‘Artist’….
Getting, found, selling work, finding buyers…finding clients…..

Doing all this is necessary to being a successful artist, yes we have to run our own business, every inch if it, as generally we cant afford to employ people to do all the tasks we don’t want to, and if we have to it, all had to be put into the pot of the ‘cost of Art’.
This is everything to get from, ‘I have a lovely bespoke dress to sell’ to ‘I have booked a client to buy my lovely bespoke dress’….

How do we get from one to the other…

Lovely arty product for sale…
needs to be advertised, via, magazines, website, social media…
said ad, need to be photographed, edited, modeled etc….
Overheads of premises, studios, showrooms, workshops…
Business rates, taxes, accountants….

None of this is fun, or done out of love, well it is, for the love of what we do, and the people it pleases. So in that respect, yes, doing what you love, Art, is a job, good and bad, and yes it does deserve a wage.

I negated to mention the times of depression, self doubt, self hate and general anxiety that most artists, (and lots of humans) suffer from on a daily basis, by having to put your soul out for everybody to judge as they see fit, in order to just earn a living, in which so many people think does not deserve a wage, as its done for ‘love’, and there for not be charged accordingly.
Love can be given for free, but your time, materials and the the ability to pay your way in the world can not.
Please look at anything you have, or a service you use…and work out how the end product got to you;

Say a cup of tea, at a coffee/tea shop, at £3, I say this as its I heard it on the radio, ‘What £3 for hot water and tea bag!!!’

‘Cost does not mean Profit’
By this I mean……£3 for tea does not mean £3 profit for business owner…

OK, where are you, not at home with hot water and tea bag, you may be in high street coffee shop, so you are paying for;

Convenience of getting tea out and about…

the shop, rent or owned,
business rates, mandatory.
utilities, heat, light, water.
fittings, chairs tables, carpet, deco…all fitted by professionals, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, interior designers…
Health and hygiene, training of staff.
Public liability insurance,( in case some one slips etc… employes liability insurance, in case staff slip etc…)
Accountants, banking, loan for starting business-= interest rates. lawyers….to draw up staff contracts, supplier contracts….

The cup, you are drinking from;
paper cup= bought, and pay for waste disposal of rubbish at coffee shop. Also time spent sourcing said style of cup..
or china, silver ware, plastic ware… bought, used, needs to be washed, either by hand, staff or machine, bough or hired. Training required, time= wages…

Branding, Signs, logos, general design of the look of the business.
advertising= design, graphics designer, photographer, models, make up, hair artists, web designers, clothing designer, for uniforms and models in said ads….etc…

Staff=training, wages, sick pay, holiday pay……as the owneryou will pay this, then pay some one else to cover the shift….the owner will not get sick pay, holiday pay, pensions etc…

Cleaning, you will no doubt be sitting in a nice comfy chair, with clean floors and windows…the shop will either be cleaned by the staff, or have contract cleaners, =paid, wages, buying of cleaning products, tools etc…

That’s just the room you are in and how it came to be…

Now for the tea…or coffee, or water, or Coke or Pepsi…

Any of the above will need to be sourced, (tea from say, India, again that’s a whole new story of leaf to tea bag and all the people involved in working to make it happen)
Once sourced a trade deal will need to be made to get the best deal, time spent with suppliers..time =wages…

and that is just some of the things that go into any business….

and yes, profit, if the business only covered its costs, it would close. It needs to make profit, so A Bob, we will cal the owner of the £3 tea shop Bob, so he can up keep the business, new tables chairs etc when worn, replace old broken tea machines, toilets, his delivery van needs to be kept on the road…and,yes, shock Horror, Bob, will need himself, after paying the bills, wages..etc, he himself will need to make a wage, so he in turn has money to paid his personal bills, home, family, pets, ‘stuff’, that make life something other than a day to day grind. Yes Bob is making your day nicer by having a tea shop some where, where you have chosen to buy a cup of tea, at your convenience, in exchange, Bob, will make a little profit, so he too can go somewhere of his convenience, and in turn enjoy something nice.

So rather than complaining that somethings ‘too’ expensive, they must be over charging, (my guess is they are not, they probably not actually make much money from it, maybe enough to get by, with a few treats, if they are lucky.) The thought might be…’have I earned enough money, doing what I do, to have enough spare to purchase this?’ If you don’t feel it is worth it, don’t buy it. Simple. Don’t moan. it is your responsibility to be able afford what you want, not theirs.

They are just trying to make a living. Just like you.


Please take a moment to pop over to Janice’s website HERE she makes the most beautiful alternative wedding dresses and accessories x

I would love to hear your opinion on this subject so please feel free to comment below x