I will gladly pay you Tuesday....

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By ChrisAppel
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I experienced a revelation today which was so sad, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. I've been on a number of freelance sites today looking for new clients.  There are plenty of jobs out there, but I was struck--as I always am--by the ridiculously low pay scales offered.  One company needed a 50 page graphic novel illustrated for a budget of $500. At ten dollars a page, even Jack Kirby in his prime would only be making minimum wage, while most artists would be pulling $10-20 a day on that project. I kept searching.

While most projects on the site were offering $20-30 dollars per assignment, one job involved illustrating a poster for just $5.  I have recently completed 8 posters for an educational company--a job which took 3 weeks of long days and weekend work to deliver--so I was wondering what sort poster the client was hoping to commission for this astronomical sum?

I read the description.  The illustration was of a hamburger with a variety of topping options.  The idea to be conveyed was that a certain restaurant served a burger any way you wanted it for only...

wait for it...

$6.  

That's right readers, my commission for for illustrating this poster won't buy me ONE of my client's hamburgers.  My new advertising slogan could be, "CHRIS APPEL--I WILL WORK FOR FOOD--ALMOST!" The irony of the job posting was so great, I wonder how they had chutzpah to put it online.

On a vaguely related note, I was recently contacted by an old client of mine.  I did a ton of work for this company back in the day, and though they never paid the best rates I did enjoy the work.  I was considering accepting a job from them, so I looked over their terms.  I would have a month to turn in my preliminaries and another month to revise the art and create final images.  The company would then spend eight months preparing the publication.  After publication they would pay me.

Payment on publication is a way to obtain no interest financing for a project from the contractors who work on it.  In a nutshell, "I will gladly pay you 26 weeks from Tuesday for artwork delivered today."  That's assuming that the project sells as well as the client is hoping..if not, the artist is not likely to be paid at all. I've found it a very expensive way to do business over the past twenty years.

Particularly since the guy who sells me hamburger always wants his money now.
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giadrosich's avatar
You are right. "Payment upon publication" to an artist really means "We will pay you when the project is published and we get enough money to pay the printer, staff, management, CEO, CFO, lawyers, and writers first!"

Which means, of course, the artist is not likely to get paid at all. "Oh! What we really meant was that we would pay you in contributors copies." And while that is fine for someone just starting out who needs tear sheets...