At some point, we are all going to be back out there performing, presenting, and sharing our work in person. We may need to find new clients or customers.
Some of us are able to carry on with our art work from home, but need to reach out to new people. And some of those new people we meet may not be as supportive and honest as the people we have worked with in the past.
Most of us know how to respond, or advise our single friends to respond, to pickup lines. We know all about the lines scammers use to lure us into fake business opportunities. But what about those lines clients use on artists and others who work independently? These are about as common as “Come here often?” and “Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity!” but we are often at a loss on how to deal with them.
“Doing this project for free will get your name out there.”
There are only three situations in which you should be giving your art, or any other service you provide, away for free. The first is if you are donating it to a cause or event you believe in and wish to support with your art. It is always good to give back to the community or to help someone in need. You should also perform or read for free if you need to do it to help your career. If this is your first time performing or reading, you are not likely to find a paying opportunity. Take the non-paying work until you get paying work. The third situation is if you are performing at an open mic. Businesses hosting open mic events actually are paying you in trade. They get entertainment when you get onstage at their business. You get free promotion of your work when their customers watch you perform. In any other situation, you should be paid for the work you do. Anyone who tries to talk you out of charging by claiming it’s a chance to “get your name out there” should be told, “My name will also get out there if I do a paying job.”
“We should…or should have….discussed this in person.”
At first glance, this looks like your client is just trying to bring a bit of old-fashioned business back into a world overtaken by technology. They want to add that personal touch back into the professional relationship. No, they don’t. They’re not trying to befriend you or establish a warm work environment. They’re trying to make sure nothing is written down, so they can change the details of the assignment on a whim, cheat you out of pay, or terminate your involvement in the project because their college roommate’s nephew needs work.
Your best response: “Great! Let’s set up a time and place to meet. I’ll bring the contact.” Or “Great! Read over my web site and email me back letting me know you agree to the terms detailed there, and when you can meet to discuss the first part of the project.”
Never agree to anything verbally, with nothing written down to back it up. That person could make you paint a mural across a whole block of buildings, write them two books, perform an entire concert series, or run their gallery for them for an entire month and then say, “Who are you? I never met you before in my life” when you show up for your pay.
“Awww! That sounds like fun!” (When they learn what you do.)
Artists and anyone who works with children or animals seem to get this line. You could tell some people you run a daycare for the kids or pets everyone else is afraid to take, or specialize in paining portraits of people going to jail for crimes they didn’t commit, or singing at funerals, and they’d shoot you a big, fake smile and say, “That sounds like fun!” If someone seems like they want to hire you, and tells you that your work “sounds like fun” when you describe it, they are letting you know that what you do is not real work to them, just something you do to pass the time. They are not likely to pay you, or if they do, they will give you a tiny amount of the expected income, bestowed upon you as though it were a gift.
Respond with, “I do indeed enjoy my work, just as I hope you enjoy the work you do every day.” If that doesn’t sink in, run. You are not going to get paid fairly by someone who has decided your work is just you having some fun.
“Please send a sample detailing exactly what you would do during a full week here.”
Samples are reasonable requests, especially when you work in the arts. Most people aren’t going to want to hire a singer they have never heard sing, or a writer whose writing they have never heard or read. Always be willing to send samples or participate in auditions. Just make sure to draw the line when the sample or audition could stand in for paid work. A writing sample is a page or a chapter, or a previously published article that already belongs to someone else, not a whole book or article they could publish. An audition is a few songs, or a copy of an album, not a whole concert at their venue.
Offer a reasonable sample. If they want enough of your work to avoid hiring you, they have no intention of hiring you. Your best response here is to tell them they need to find someone else. They probably already did anyway.