Free Publicity? When Compensation Doesn't Mean Money

Working as an artist or crafter allows you to use your creativity to create works of art and crafts that people want to have. But how they want to buy can sometimes be an issue.

Like many other professions where creativity and skill are needed to do the job, artists and crafters occasionally have to deal with people that don’t always seem to understand how the buying process works. Sometimes it is a friend who just wants the product for free because...well, because you’re friends. Sometimes it is someone who offers to pay you with another product or service. Perhaps the most odd is when someone offers to “buy” your art or crafts in exchange for “publicity.”

“I can’t give you money,” a customer might say, “but I have something better. I have a gazillion followers on FaceTwitLinkPlus and I’ll be sure to recommend you and your art (or crafts) to all of my followers.”

Is it ever ok to give away your art or crafts for free? Should you accept other products or services as payment? Is free publicity a good form of payment? The following are some helpful tips when it comes to accepting payment for your art or crafts.

  1. It is ok to occasionally give your art or crafts away for free.

    Is a customer a non-profit organization that you would like to help out? Is it a loyal and reliable customer who has already purchased from you many times? Is it your mom? All of these situations are ones where giving away your product for free might be a good idea. It’s up to you to decide whether, for example, the trauma and hardship of laboring for eight or 22 hours in order to bring you into the world and then feeding, clothing, sheltering, and in all other ways taking care of you (in the case of your mom), is worth the cost of giving one of your products away for free. In the case of your friends, they might want free art or crafts, but if you give away all your products away for free, you won’t be in business too long. Think wisely about who to give your products free to.

  1. Think very hard before you accept other products or services as payment.

    If the product or service is something you really need or it would save you money in other ways, it might be worth it. For example, if a customer wants to purchase a painting and offers you free food at their store, daycare for your kids, or other types of useful products or services, you can at least consider it. That doesn’t mean that you should always accept it - it just means it is an option for you to consider. However, if they offer you 40 hula hoops or the book they wrote about the political economy of some nation you’ve never even heard of, it’s probably not a good idea. In those cases, money is the best option every time.

  1. It is rarely (if ever) a good idea to accept “publicity” as payment.

    Try this experiment (ok, don’t really, but just imagine what would happen if you did): The next time you go to the dentist or the doctor, tell them that you don’t have the money to pay them, but if they will give you that root canal or perform that surgery for free, you will let all of your many followers on social media know about them. Think that will work? We don’t either. So, why should that work for you? You are a professional, and you deserve to be treated as a professional and that means you deserve to be paid money for your products. Here’s the other problem: You can’t buy groceries, pay the rent or mortgage, send the kids to school, or do very many other things with “publicity.” In some cases, people use publicity compensation simply as a way to get a free product. We’re not saying you should never accept publicity as payment, but you need to be very careful about it, and it should only be done if you are absolutely sure that the benefits outweigh all the costs.

Do you have an experience about compensation for your products you’d like to share? Have other tips for artists and crafters about compensation? Please comment below.


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