Maria Brophy

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business of art / Entrepreneur

How to Handle a Friends Request for Free Digital Art

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Drew Brophy Signing an Art Print in Studio Spring 2013A reader sent me this email, asking for help:
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“An old friend asked if they could use one of my painting images for his company’s website and newsletters.  He’s a nice guy, and I want to be generous.  But…. He’s not offering payment.  He said he would credit my name “in print somewhere.”  
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I want to help, but, I don’t want to give my art away for nothing.  How do I make both of us happy?”  
 
Sincerely, *Ginny Bloom.
(*Ginny Bloom is an Alias to protect the identity of my reader!)
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Friends asking for use of your artwork in exchange for, uh, nothing….
is a recurring problem, when you’re an artist.  Some of your friends  don’t realize that being an artist, while enjoyable, is a BUSINESS!
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Their ignorance is not meant to be harmful, often they truly don’t understand what’s it like to be in  business for yourself.
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(But just imagine calling a friend who’s a chef and saying “Hey, I’d love a home cooked meal tonight.  Can you just whip me up something quick, since it’s so easy for you?!”)
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Often we get requests from people wanting to use my artist husband, Drew Brophy’s art (for free).
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At times, we are willing to trade use of his art in return for TRUE PROMOTIONAL VALUE (see definition below), with people that we really like or actual charities that we care about.
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Since most people don’t know, I often have to spell out what they specifically need to do to give us TRUE PROMOTIONAL VALUE in exchange for the art.
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Usually, people are happy to oblige, once they know what we want.  After all, they can’t paint it themselves!
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I wrote about a similar dilemma before, in my blog post titled “Doing Business with Friends; An Entrepreneur’s Challenge.”  There I talk about how to handle friends’ work requests with a proper proposal and a price break.
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But, this case is a little different, in that there’s no work required up front, and you truly want to let them use it free of charge, but at the same time you want it to be a fair trade.
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Here’s what I suggest:
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Exchange use of the artwork for TRUE promotional value.  And place limits on what they can use it for, and for how long, in writing.  (You should always specify limits, 100% of the time, with everyone, anyway.)
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TRUE promo value has the following aspects:
  1. The artist’s name is clearly posted (and signature legible on the art itself)
  2. The artist’s copyright notice is clearly legible near or on the art (i.e. “Artwork above (c) Ginny Bloom”)
  3. There’s a DIRECT LINK to the artist’s website, in an easy to find place
  4. There’s a well written and visible message about the artist, on their website and newsletters.  (For example:  “Ginny Bloom is the artist of this beautiful art.  Please visit her website at www.GinnyBloom.com”.)
Promotional Value IS NOT FOUND in this manner:
  • Mentioning your name in fine print (nobody reads fine print!)
  • Printing or displaying your art without your signature and copyright notice clearly legible
  • Not having a link to your website
Let me remind you of this:  If your friend is not an art marketing wizard, they probably do not know what TRUE PROMO VALUE looks like.   So it’s your job to tell them.
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The best way to make it clear is to put it in writing.  I’ve made it easy for you – you can use the letter below (change it to suit your needs):
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Dear John,
Thanks for the email and I’m flattered that you want to use my artwork for your newsletters and your webpage.
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Yes, I’m happy to let you use the artwork at no charge for those two specific uses for 12 months;
all I ask for in return is the following:
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1 – The artwork bear my signature and my legal copyright notice in a legible manner, like this:  “Artwork (c) GINNY BLOOM”
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2 – That in your newsletters and your website, you include the following blurb in a prominent location near the art:  “The Artwork titled “BLOOMING CACTUS” shown above was created by GINNY BLOOM.   Help us thank her by visiting her website at  http://GinnyBloom.com .”
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If this will work for you, let me know and I”ll send you the artwork via email, and then send me a link to show me how you have displayed it on your site and in your newsletters.
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Thank you!  Ginny
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Often, when we specify what we need from someone, we make it easier for them to please us, in return for us pleasing them.  In the end, everyone feels good about it!

Please, let me know in the comments if you have encountered this in your career, and if so, how did you handle it?
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Maria
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17 Comments How to Handle a Friends Request for Free Digital Art

  1. Stephen Abbott

    Agree! I would off load the “friends” before I’d give any art away. Money talks and you know the rest. A friend is very simply a human being who wants something from you at little or no cost.

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Stephen, thanks for your comment! I think most of our friends and family just don’t realize how the business of art works, and so it’s our job to help them learn. Usually, the intentions are good!

      Reply
  2. Carolyn Edlund

    Brilliant way to keep your friends while asking them to respect your business! I’d like to suggest that the artist also mention that they normally license their images, and ask their friend for referrals to paying customers they may know. This could add even more promotional value.

    Reply
    1. Vincent von Frese

      I have given art to friends but after having seen some of it become dormant there with them resulting in no future referrals or recognition I never give it up again. Even donations since these usually are never respected properly. This is why I no longer donate any art for any cause. Art has the quality of presence more than non-art objects and is a reflection of our being.

      On the other hand art I’ve sold or traded and which had been properly compensated for and noted for the record hangs adjacent to some of the most prominent artists in the world.

      Your statement proves how expensive art should belong in the hands of responsible people who respect your art work’s value as if it were you, since it actually is you.

      Von

      Reply
    2. Maria Brophy

      Carolyn, thanks for the suggestion, I agree! Asking for referrals to paying clients is a good idea, and people who care about us are happy to do it.

      Reply
  3. mimi

    Thank you again for a clear informative mail-out.

    I have found that it can get very awkward when you are asked by ‘friends’ for art work, they seem to think you do a scribble in 5 minutes and there it is Ta Da! – unfortunately this seems to happen with most design services – people have no idea about the time it actually takes to complete a design – I often use the “so would you lend me your car/business time for free?” this often does the trick.

    Mimi

    Reply
  4. Sara Drescher Braswell

    Wonderful advice as usual! Sometimes the hardest thing for me as a highly visual person is to communicate verbally. This is very helpful and a professional way to deal with the many requests we receive! Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Rachael Shores

    This article came at perfect timing and it’s helped other artists in my circle. I am struggling, as a new artist someone wants to use my art for their logo. The “12 month” clause won’t really work for them but I still can’t wrap my head around getting paid just for people using my image. Maybe it’s time to buy that art licensing e-book… I’ve already used your letter layout. Thank you for the help you’ve been giving.

    Reply
    1. Maria

      Rachael, come up with a price that works for you. Most logos cost anywhere from $500 – $10,000, depending on the logo. In this case, if you just charged the minimum and gave them the rights to use it in perpetuity, they should be really happy about that! It’s a great deal. And, you’re getting paid too. Win win all the way around.

      Reply
      1. Diana

        Thank you for your ongoing generosity in assisting Artists.
        I am currently designing lines for “general” market, however, I do have several pieces of Biblical art already.
        I was asked by a ministry to use one of my pieces as a wrap on a semi-truck, to spread God’s word. I am all about spreading His message, yet I do want this to be a wise business deal as well.
        I have no idea how to charge in this unique circumstance. Any thoughts? Thank you.

  6. Patricia J Finley

    This was an excellent article! The timing was off as I had just donated a piece to an organization, it didn’t sell at the auction (I think they put a bottom line price on it) and they can’t seem to send it back until January when their board meets to approve the $60 packing and shipping expense. Trust me, this WILL NOT happen to me again – thanks to you.
    Keep writing!
    Best,
    Pat

    Reply
  7. vanessa

    My scenario is a bit different. I’m from brazil and i live in usa. I’m a painter. I started a year ago and I’m doing very well. But i feel irritaded when my friends say “i don’t want any souvenir i want you to do a painting about me.” , ” i want you to paint something for me”

    Quite honestly i feel very ticked off.
    I have told 2 people this “this is not how i work. I paint what inspires me. What comes from me. I don’t paint for others unless I’m getting paid or else I’m inspired to do it so”

    But in my head you don’t ask for gifts. And you certainly don’t ask for free art. Even if you’re my bff.

    Reply

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