Previously, Artist Cafe Utica examined the reasons behind some of the reluctance to pay artists. Understanding them may be helpful, but they still cost us time, money, and energy when we meet them face to face. Sometimes all you can do is keep going on with what you’re doing. In other situations, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your art, both now, as we offer our work online, and in the future, as we plan to reinvigorate our careers once quarantine is over.
The client behaves as though what you are doing is not real work.
The idea here is to make it clear that while you enjoy what you do, the reason you are doing it for them, right now, is because you are earning money. I have found the best way to handle this situation is by keeping calm and making your terms clear in writing before the concert begins, or the first requested word or stroke of paint hits the paper.
Some people like to use actual printed contracts. Others are happy with a more casual agreement, but at least email the client back and forth, and make sure to send a message verifying that they will be paying you a certain amount of money for a certain amount of work.
You can also use your web site or social media page to back yourself up on this. The site you’re reading right now contains my terms. Under “Work with Me,” I have my prices and fees detailed, and a statement that anyone who asks me to write anything for them states that they have read and accepted the terms on the page.
Someone hires you, then behaves as though anyone could do what you’re doing.
A person who becomes truly beligerant deserves to be offered the opportunity to do what you are doing. Get off the stage, take the document back, stop in the middle of the painting, and invite them to go ahead and finish up for you.
If the person isn’t causing a disruption, just acting like they’re giving you a present instead of paying you for your work, make sure you have the agreement in writing. Otherwise, ignore them. You can pay the electric bill with the $100 you were handed respectfully, and you can pay that same electric bill with the $100 somebody paid you while smirking and saying “Here ya go.”
You get to work in your art. You get paid. The audience understands that you are doing something important. One person with an attitude isn’t something to get upset over for too long.
Your new client seems to think your work isn’t terribly important. They talk about booking your band or hiring you to paint portraits or write articles in the same way they talk about running to the dollar store for extra napkins.
This is of course another situation in which you want to make sure they understand that you are there to do a job, and they do need to pay you for it. But people who behave like this are more likely to deny you the environment you need to do your work well than rip you off financially. After all, they paid for those extra packs of napkins.
This is the place that hires your band, then expects you to perform in a space so small everyone can barely move their arms to play their instruments, or hires you to act or dance on a floor that makes every footstep sound like elephants are charging across it. The worst thing that will happen here is you will wind up disappointing the audience.
Handle any critical reviews or comments on your social media or art home pages with grace. A simple “Sorry about the sound issues Friday night. We’ll be at the ABC Festival in three weeks, and looking forward to a better show” is much more professional than “We know the play was horrible! They put us on that creaky old floor as a stage! We hope the next festival we perform in appreciates us a little more!”
Going off on people is fine among friends, in private. Doing so publicly just gives the impression that you put clients or customers “on blast” as they say on YouTube.
Somebody hired you, agreed to pay you, and is now behaving as though you do not really need the money.
The one good thing about this situation is it usually comes up before you have kept your end of the agreement. They agreed to your usual fee, now they’re sending emails letting you know that the other painting they commissioned for their business was only half that much, or they normally pay dancers a little less than what they agreed to pay your troupe.
Look a little deeper on this one. If the person is doing some type of charitable work, or they are new to running their business, they may be using attitude to cover up the fact that they can’t truly afford to pay you. If you want to support their project, go ahead and agree to work for free or for a reduced rate. Cancel the gig if you do not. If they are just behaving as though you don’t really need your money, remind them that it is not a matter of need, it is a matter of completing an agreed upon exchange of goods or services for money. We still have to pay for new cars, and the CEOs of large car manufacturers certainly do not need our money.
The situation seems like a scam.
There are a few red flags for a scam. The client may be vague about the project or gig. They may resist or act insulted when you want to put things in writing or ask them to read and acknowledge your professional page. You may be asked to do things that have little or nothing to do with the work you offer. Maybe this person or business has a history of being irresponsible or difficult to work with. If you believe you are being scammed, walk away before you contribute anything of value.
Some of these may seem unncecessarily harsh, but they are all things I wish I had done as I look back over the many instances when I was treated as though I was just playing around when I wrote. You don’t want to be that artist nobody will hire because they’ll ransack the place if exactly four bottles of diet soda are not placed in a precise square shape in a round bucket of ice in the backstage area, but you don’t want to gain the reputation as a pushoever either. That only encourages more dismissive or dishonest types to contact you, and to treat other artists the same way.