Ted Rall scolds multimillion-dollar charity for asking for free cartoons

201110181411 Ted Rall scolds multimillion dollar charity for asking for free cartoons
Ted Rall recently received a letter from the American Cancer Society asking for a pro bono cartoonist to work on a project. In case you don’t like Ted Rall, I’ll reproduce the nut graph right here:

Does the Society pay any of its staff? Does it rent office space? Does it buy office supplies? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” please consider paying cartoonists and other creators. Cartooning is hard work, and it deserves recompense.


Even though we’re pretty much all for the American Cancer Society— even if they do pay their CEO $914,000 a year—the idea that creative labor should be free labor is a common one…and one that we should try to ease gently out the door. Here’s Rall’s missive on the matter:

Yesterday I received a query from the American Cancer Society for a “pro bono cartoonist.” I’m about to post this to my blog, but thought you guys might also have received this.

If we don’t shame these shameless people—people who can EASILY afford to pay us but simply don’t feel like it—this is only going to get worse.

Ted

First the original query, followed by my response.
My name is Ivy Wang. I work with the American Cancer Society in Manhattan.I am contacting you because the American Cancer Society is looking for a pro bono cartoonist to help us create QuitBuddy personas.

Here is a brief introduction of the QuitBuddy idea:

As a part of the Great American Smokeout campaign, the American Cancer Society is looking for a pro bono cartoonist to create approximately three or more different QuitBuddy personas that individuals can choose from to act as their inspiration to quit smoking. Examples of potential QuitBuddy personas include Drill Sergeant, Cheerleader, Superhero, Guilty Mom, etc. The personas will be presented as cartoons or through a short comedian video. Caricatures of each persona will also be displayed on a Facebook home page as a postcard that can be tagged or shared or as a funny video from comedians.

We need the work done by November 1 if possible. However, we would still take cartoons later but it might not get promoted this year.

Please let me know if you are interested.

We really appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you

Ivy

Dear Ivy:

Thank you for thinking of me and my work. I do appreciate it.

Please don’t take this the wrong way—I assume you were simply asked to find a cartoonist or cartoonists—but you should be aware that asking for pro bono work from a cartoonist during the current economic environment for cartoonists is pushing a very big red button and might result in negative publicity for the American Cancer Society.

Since I greatly respect the Society’s work, especially its long-standing campaign to fight smoking, which has saved millions of lives, as a former President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists I think I should let you know that there is a widespread feeling within the profession that organizations like yours can and should pay for cartoons by professional cartoonists.

These days, more and more non-profits and for-profit organizations alike are asking for “free” work by cartoonists. In an environment when scores of cartoonists are being forced to quit and being laid off due to lack of work, groups that pay for everything else ought to be willing to pay the relatively low fees charged by cartoonists.

Does the Society pay any of its staff? Does it rent office space? Does it buy office supplies? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” please consider paying cartoonists and other creators. Cartooning is hard work, and it deserves recompense.

According to information I found online, your budget is $350 million per annum. Surely an appropriate fee ($10,000, or 0.003% of your budget) is affordable for a company that spends $914,906 per year on its CEO.

A wildly successful cartoonist earns less than $25,000 per year.

I hope you take this in the friendly spirit in which is meant! And if you’re willing to reconsider your budget, please let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,
Ted

Comments

  1. Matthew Southworth says:

    First thought: “oh, come on, Ted, don’t be such a grump”.

    Second thought (once I’d actually taken a second to THINK): “he’s absolutely right”.

    $914,000 a year. THAT IS FUCKING INSANE. That’s nearly a million dollars a year that DOESN’T go to cancer research. So if you’re donating $50 to cancer research, it only takes you and EIGHTEEN THOUSAND, TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE of your friends donating the same amount to pay ONE PERSON’s salary.

    Emphasis mine!

  2. Matthew Southworth says:

    And to the point of donating work:

    Years back when John Kerry was running for president, there were dozens of benefits for the campaign here in Seattle. My band played at several, for free of course, in hopes of getting Bush kicked out of office (not because we were in love with John Kerry).

    We were actually onstage playing when it hit me: why am I, an apartment manager making $14,000 a year, playing free benefit shows for the spouse of one of the richest women in the world?

    Shit, I’m all mad now. . .

  3. Ted Rall “Cartooning is hard work, “. No Ted, working in a coal mine is hard work. Being a teacher in Newark New Jersey (like my sister-in-law used to do) is hard work. Standing on your feet working for minimum wage in MacDonalds or Walmart is hard work. Being a roofer in the middle of July is hard work. Being a Navy Seal or even a garbage man is hard work. Trying to find a job in a recession is hard work. Drawing funny little pictures is not hard work. It’s a joy — if it’s not, then you’re doing it wrong. Jeesh, some people wouldn’t give a sick kid a nickel.

  4. I’d be livin’ the high life if I make $25k this year.

  5. PS: cartooning, if you’re doing it right, is equal parts hard work and pleasure.

  6. Best Rall quote from this piece: “Cartooning is hard work.” Of course, one look at Rall’s drawings proves that some cartoonists don’t work as hard as others.

  7. I appreciate how Ted Rall and The Beat both handled this story. It could very easily look like cartoonists asking for compensation are smug jerks, but Y’all make good points.

    Getting paid for work seems natural in near any profession, why not cartooning?

  8. @CitizenCliff

    As a professional artist for nearly 30 years I am so sick and tired of hearing or reading comments such as yours.

    Is my (or any artist/creative person) as strenuous or taxing as a steel worker, teacher or construction worker? No. But to make a blanket statement, that “Oh, drawing funny little pictures is not hard work”
    is both ignorant and insulting to those of us who spend hours and hours of drawing, designing, researching and applying our talents to create the best work that we can.

    Tell you what CitizenCliff, how about you and I swap jobs for a couple months and you can spend those late, late nights when you’re trying to come up with the best design or illustration possible against ridiculous deadlines. Oh, and forget weekends and holidays. Work days are 365 days a year.

    But I guess since we don’t “sweat” and all we do are draw funny little pictures, we’re just playing 24/7.

  9. True, coal miners DO work their asses off, but everyone else does the same exact thing:

    http://boxbrown.com/bellen/?p=634

    So, NO ONE must work hard besides coal miners! Maybe teachers…

  10. Tad Stones says:

    @CitizenCliff
    Maybe “hard work” is thrown around too much like the word, “hero.” I think it means “takes a great deal of effort.” Because cartooning doesn’t come easy. Coming up with three good, memorable characters that will be the basis of a big campaign is not a quick doodle on a napkin. It’s not just drawing “a funny picture.”

    But maybe your definition of “hard work” means it’s physically uncomfortable. In that case, you’re right. Cartoonists have it easy, as do research scientists looking for a cancer cure.

  11. Matthew Southworth says:

    @CitizenCliff

    Don’t be such a dumbass. It IS hard work. And I’ve had minimum wage jobs where I stood for hours, and those jobs were NOT hard work. They were demoralizing, dull, tedious, long empty hours, but they weren’t HARD.

    A job making “funny little pictures” can be quite difficult, you may be surprised to know, just as shoveling gravel is, just as roofing is, just as landscaping is. If it’s all about physical exertion, by your standards, brain surgery isn’t hard work, either.

    I work very hard at my job, but I’m not offended by your statement, I just think you don’t have any idea of the amount of exertion that can go into creative work.

    Jeez, why is it that the only guy that makes an asshole statement in this thread is the guy with an Internet alias? Food for thought.

  12. Obviously, if cartooning was easy, unskilled labor then some staff member at the ACS would just do the project themselves.

    Ugh, actually I bet that’s exactly what winds up happening.

  13. Synsidar says:

    Getting paid for work seems natural in near any profession, why not cartooning?

    That would depend a lot on what the cartoon is for, wouldn’t it? People routinely donate their time to political and charitable causes, and put their professional skills to use for the sake of the cause. Cartoonists are fighting global warming, with and without pay. How would Rall be harmed by pro bono work?

    SRS

  14. As much as i hate to say it, FerretFace is right, ACS should offer some cash for this. But as a non-profit charity as popular as they are, I’m sure standard operating procedure is to try and get shit for free, and when that doesn’t work, pay for it. I hope they reconsider and offer up a little cash, even a symbolic amount.

  15. Citizen Cliff: why haven’t I noticed before that you are the worst person?

    People need to get paid for their work. YOU go do it for free if it’s so goddam easy for you.

  16. Ted’s absolutely right.

  17. Matthew Southworth says:

    I can’t shut up today.

    Re-reading Cliff’s message, he says “it’s not hard work, it’s a joy, or you’re in the wrong profession” (I’m paraphrasing slightly). Reading this in a little more charitable light, Cliff, maybe you’re saying that if cartooning isn’t fun, you shouldn’t do it and make room for someone who’d love it?

    Because I just think that’s a fundamental point of view I disagree with. The most intriguing thing of cartooning (and music, for that matter) is that it ebbs and flows between being very difficult and being effortless. But you don’t get the effortless moments without pushing through the harder parts. And there is a lot of pressure–when a deadline is pressing on you and you know that this page is going to be published whether you think it’s embarrassingly bad or not, and you’ve got to get it to your editor by 9 am tomorrow regardless, those are the times that you push forward and hope that you enter that state of grace.

    And sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. But just for reference, I usually put in between six and fifteen hours per page, and that’s all for “funny little pictures” you can read in ten minutes.

  18. Citizen Cliff is one of the hardest-working cartoonists around, and I’d be willing to bet that he’s done some pro bono work in his time. Cliff’s point isn’t that cartooning is as easy as exhaling. Rather, it’s that cartooning’s a pretty cushy gig compared to factory work, stocking shelves at WalMart, data entry or bagging groceries, (you know, the kind of shit jobs that most people have). Cartooning is the kind of job that most normal folks dream about having, and if you can make a go of cartooning, you might consider earning some karmic points by doing a nice thing for a deserving cause. And of course it should go without saying that if, after being approached to do some pro bono work that you don’t want to do, the classy thing is to quietly decline, rather than having a public hissy fit about it.

  19. The Beat says:

    Danny and Citizen Cliff (who I know enough of to know he isn’t a total jerk): Yes, other jobs are worse. Yes, there are apartments messier than mine. Does that mean I should run over to someone’s house and help clean them up. I brought this up knowing some people wouldn’t like it just because it was Ted Rall, but I felt the issues here are larger than Ted.

    THIS IS NOT A BENEFIT. They are looking for a cartoonist to execute a CAMPAIGN. It is what would in the corporate world be a PAYING GIG. Of course we don’t like cancer, and if asked to donate for a benefit to help Dylan Williams or Jewel Shepherd or whoever …we give. We help.

    This is asking to design a campaign to be used for free.

    I assume that the head of the ACS is paid $914,906 a year becuase she (or he) is very good at their job…and earns every penny. She is paid what she is worth.

    I believe a cartoonist should also be paid what she is worth.

  20. Martha Thomases says:

    Ted is, of course, absolutely right.

    I’m willing to bet that the ad agency does work pro bono, to get cool stuff to put in their reel. The ACS probably figures it’s offering the cartoonist the same opportunity.

    Do you think they let the cartoonist keep the copyright and trademarks on this character s/he is creating?

  21. Charities ask for free stuff all the time. They’re charities, that’s what they do. What the charity’s staffers get paid is irrelevant. Ad agencies do pro bono work from all the time, as do graphic design firms, lawyers, doctors, and even cartoonists, (me included). When someone asks you if you’d like to help out, it’s up to you to decide whether or not its a worthy cause. This is NOT the Village Voice asking people to draw free illos for their Comics issue, this is an actual charity, with a valid cause. Hell, Rall even has a PayPal button up on his website asking suckers to chip in and help fund his whiny nonsense. How is that so different than the Cancer Society asking for free art? Bottom line: if you don’t want the charity gig, the classy move is to politely decline, or just ignore what’s obviously a mass email.

  22. Good for Ted! A national organization wants the benefit of a skilled professional? Well, the skilled professional wants to keep on working in that profession!

    This is like the “no spec work” graphic design debates (AIGA’s position on spec work) or the time that Village Voice did a comics issue without actually paying the comics contributors.

  23. Thanks Danny — that was exactly my point. I thought for a minute there I might wind up on Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person In The World.”

    I do believe artists should be paid, and paid well for their efforts. And I don’t appreciate it when others take our efforts so lightly as to think we can just “whip something up.”

    But Rall’s statement sounds too much like “what’s in it for me?” Danny’s correct, I have donated artwork and cash, many, many times. I’ve been fortunate in life, financially successful if that’s how you define fortunate — most people in comics don’t know about my life outside of comics.

    @darrylayo thinks I am “the worst person” because I felt that making comics should be a joy. Or is it that charity is such a disgusting concept? I’m not sure why you’re so hostile to ideas other than your own.

    As for the rest of the hostility and name-calling, I can only reply: it’s just comics, boys. Keep it in perspective.

    Ted Rall said that making comics is hard work. I’d say making comics can be time consuming, I’d say it can be challenging. But I’ve done “hard work.” I’ve worked in a machine shop from age 9 to 18 to help my family get by. I’ve worked in an auto body shop, a screen printing factory, none of which had air conditioning or much ventilation, and opportunity for anything like self-expression or fame and fortune. Considering all the other jobs in the world, I’d say we’re lucky to be drawing funny little pictures compared to the bullshit jobs other people have to do. I think Rall forgot that, or perhaps never consider the alternative to his charmed life.

  24. The problem with comparing a cartoonist to an ad agency is that the ad agency really stands to make a lot of money from agreeing to a pro bono project here and there. It gets their name and rep out there. Also: they are agencies and have more resources than a lone cartoonist who spends all of his or her time working on projects to chase the dollars that actually are available.

    Cartoonists don’t stand to make a lot of money on their craft, ever. So what great jobs and gigs are they going to receive after this pro bono stuff? We’re talking about just about the least-paid creative professionals in the nation here.

    In comics, doing work for free only leads to more offers to do work for free. There is about a zero percent chance that anybody’s going to look at a cancer pamphlet and be like “I MUST HIRE THIS ARTIST FOR A SIXTY-THOUSAND-DOLLAR PAYING CAMPAIGN IMMEDIATELY.” Otherwise, we’d all be driving those cars that have the spinning rims, playa.

  25. Citizen Cliff and Danny: Do you see the difference I do between a benefit and a work project?

    Are the people who develop the Quit Buddy for video and Facebook also be doing it pro bono? (that is certainly possible.)

    In a world where pretty much every cartoonist I know is doing their own work for free hoping for a media payout on the backend, while doing little ad jobs or even (gasp) public service jobs to make a living, is it so wrong to call attention to this?

  26. Cliff: I’m hostile to the way you phrased your initial comment. It sounded like truly vile, spiteful, elitist and condescending crap that we hear literally every day.

    Why would you phrase your comments as such if it wasn’t your intention to denegrate everybody? I know (now) that you’re an artist and stuff, but that comment sounded like the jerks you see on Reddit or in CNN comments who think that artists are lazy jerks who should stop whining.

    And I’ve done free work too. We all have. Every art person in the history of comics/cartooning has worked for free. The entire point is…plumbers don’t work for free. Electritians don’t work for free. Our craft is worth more and people assume–they don’t THINK or have malice–they ASSUME that our craft is not worth anything at all!

    How would you like the opportunity to do the same amount of work, but in MY service and with no compensation of any kind? Come on, that doesn’t even make sense.

  27. @The Beat: There’s nothing wrong with calling attention to it. Hell, Rall could even be right about turning down a charity — it’s his right.

    My point was that Rall called it “hard work.” I found that offensive when compared to what other humans must do to survive each day.

    But I guess that makes me “the worst person.” I suppose I should start growing my Hitler mustache now so there’s no confusion.

  28. Matthew Southworth says:

    While I do agree (mostly) with Danny’s point about turning down charity work without making a stink about it, that it’s impolite to make a big noise, I think that the reaction I had to Cliff’s comment–perhaps a knee-jerk reaction–is germane to the topic.

    Person A says “hey, would you do some work for free?”, and person B says “come on, it’s just drawing funny little pictures”. Meanwhile, cartoonists are already working for next to nothing in a lot of cases.

    So while I don’t begrudge you financial success at all, CitizenCliff–I think that’s fantastic, and I hope it means you’re able to do more cartooning–a lot of people are struggling at cartooning just to pay the electric bill. So in light of a CEO of a charity making nearly a MILLION DOLLARS a year, I don’t think it’s altogether bad form to draw attention to it.

    In other words, cartooning for a charity should be free, but CEO-ing for that charity should make someone a millionaire many times over?

  29. I have donated work to various causes and charities, including a 9/11 benefit comic book. I will do so in the future.

    When considering whether to donate work to a group, one should ask two questions:

    Can they afford to pay?
    Do they for staff, office space, etc.?

    Many organizations–both for- and non-profit–operate on shoestring budgets. They rely mostly or entirely on donations. In those cases, if I agree with their cause, why not contribute?

    But let’s look at a cause like the ACS. They have a very low rating from watchdog groups for the percentage of donations that make it to the end user. They pay RETIRED officers over $1 million a year each. They have net assets of over $1.3 BILLION. Technically, they’re non-profit–but that’s a joke. Truth is, they’re a huge corporation with fancy computers, overpaid staff and massive overhead. They can and should pay just as much as a Fortune 500 company can and should pay.

    In truth, it would have been to my personal advantage NOT to publicize this outrage, to try to get them to change their mind and maybe extract a few coins from them. I have burned my bridge with a potential client to stand up for the basic point that cartoonists are in dire financial shape and need to get paid if they are to survive.

    I do hope they hire someone, but I’m betting it won’t be me.

  30. >>>I suppose I should start growing my Hitler mustache now so there’s no confusion.

    Danny has beat you to the punch there so you’ll have to start painting bad landscapes or something.

  31. @Cathy Leamy: I don’t think this is comparable either to spec work or the heinous example of the Voice asking for free contributions to the Comics issue, (a real outrage). The Voice normally pays its contributors, and the understanding with spec work is that it may or may not turn into cash, caveat emptor. The Cancer Society is a long-established charity, and I suspect they have a long history of hitting people up for freebies. In this unfortunate instance, the NCS clearly sent a mass email that reached a cranky cuss in an unreceptive frame of mind, and I know sometimes that doesn’t turn out so well.

  32. Matthew Southworth says:

    By the way, CitizenCliff–

    I apologize for using words like “dumbass” and “asshole”. That was rude of me, and re-reading your first comment and your subsequent comment, I realize I was the one acting like an asshole.

    I’m always bitching that I want people on the internet to behave responsibly and then I say things like that, and I’m sorry.

    Matt

  33. John Tebbel says:

    Thinking that only physical labor is “hard” work is the usual puritain bs. So tired of it. Like Sergio says, you’re not paying for the ten minutes it took him to make the drawing, you’re paying him for the 50 years he spent learning how to do it in ten minutes.

    And, don’t forget to cut your fellow artists off at the knees, it’s the way of the new millennium. Solidarity for never.

  34. Synsidar says:

    A couple of reasons why ACS might have sent out that pro bono letter:

    The ACS has a program — Pro Bono Engagement Program — set up specifically to ask companies to have their employees put their professional skills to use for the benefit of the ACS.

    The Core-Create healthcare marketing company recently did pro bono work for an ACS campaign. Anyone or any company who does volunteer work considers whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

    SRS

  35. @Mathew try not calling people dumb asses when you don’t agree with them next time. I didn’t call you one, nor did I call Ted Rall one. I simply found his use of “hard work” to be questionable. I never said he wasn’t entitled to be paid. I never said you weren’t entitled to be paid.

    If you’re concerned about my identity, my screen name is linked to my site — I don’t hide, I don’t shrink from what I say. But if you’d like to know, my name is Cliff Galbraith. See, now we can all be friends. Let’s all go back to making comics — I’m sure we can still find some joy it.

  36. A) I work for a non-profit. I ask for free crap all the time. I don’t feel guilty. When people tell me no, I don’t get mad. I ask for all kinds of free stuff. Free space. Free office equipment. Free food. Free work (both expert work and non-expert work). With our budget, we barely scrape by. I’ll take all the free stuff I can get. All of it.

    Tell me ‘no.’ I won’t hate you. At all. Tell me ‘yes,’ and I’ll thank you.

    Of course, our national CEO doesn’t even have an assistant, so we are functioning at a diffferent order of magnitude.

    B) That said, The American Cancer Society is a long established charity, true, but there are a lot of folks out there who really hate them. They say that they are front group for the chemical industry. I haven’t looked into this, but… do some Google searches. You’ll find a decent number of screeds out there. Probably at least some truth to them.

  37. Oh no– Mathew, I didn’t see your apology up there — now I am the dumbass.

    Cheers

  38. Matthew Southworth says:

    No problem, Cliff–glad we patched it up. Let’s be friends!

  39. Oh great, now I can see both sides and am all conflicted.

    Sometimes I want to shout out my window at the presumptuousness of people asking for free work, sometimes I want to send passive aggressive emails to publishers asking to be paid more (which I’ve done, which lost me a job).

    I think it’d be instructive to know what kind of work the ACS pays for and what kind of work they rely on to be free. Do they pay lawyers and other professionals most of the time?

    I wonder if there would have been an outcry if they had publicly announced a competition rather than asking cartoonists directly.

  40. Jeff P. says:

    Tell my a** and my lower back cartooning’s not hard work when I get up after a multi-hour drawing session. Or my wrist or fingers when they numb up.

    I’ve worked many physical jobs over the years, and they’ve been dull and monotonous, but they haven’t been any harder than cartooning.

    Sure, I’m lucky to be earning money from something I love, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, or never feels like work, or doesn’t take a physical toll. I never complain, but when I hear crap comparisons like this, I speak up.

  41. The difference between asking an ad agency for pro bono work and a freelancer is that an ad agency has more to gain from the tax write-off and the prestige of appearing charitable. Why? Because everyone knows you normally have to pay an ad agency for their work. As Ted points out, people tend to assume freelance artists are more than happy to work for free most of the time.

  42. The Beat:

    “THIS IS NOT A BENEFIT. They are looking for a cartoonist to execute a CAMPAIGN.”

    Yeah. And they want it by November 1st. No pay AND a tight deadline.

    Thing is, if Ted Rall did this campaign for FREE, people would be congratulating the $900,000 CEO on HIS brilliant work.

  43. CitizenCliff says, “My point was that Rall called it ‘hard work.’ I found that offensive when compared to what other humans must do to survive each day.”

    If just the “wildly successful cartoonists” are making just $25,000/year, I don’t understand why you think drawing on an empty stomach or not being barely able to support a family on that kind of income doesn’t make it as tough as those other jobs. I think you are simply glamorizing a profession that you think just involves drawing funny pictures all day and doesn’t require the same level of energy and commitment. Many cartoonists work way more hours than the people you mentioned. Also, are you implying that being an auto mechanic is less fulfilling than being a cartoonist? They certainly get paid much better. Yes, you’ve done those other jobs, but you haven’t walked in a cartoonists shoes.

  44. Matthew Southworth says:

    Just for the sake of clarity–and this is something I didn’t realize when I wrote my first response to CitizenCliff–

    He HAS walked in those shoes and is a cartoonist himself. My pissy response to him was based partially on an incorrect assumption that he didn’t know what sort of labor cartooning involves, but I was wrong.

    I think what makes this issue interesting is that in the end it’s not about whether cartooning is hard work or not, it’s about the complicated ethics in charity work and organizations devoted to charity, and (less importantly) about the perceived value of what we do.

  45. Good Lord, I get so tired of people thinking that just because I’m creative and use my brain and talent to make cartoons and art that I’m taking a pass on “hard work”. That’s total BS. I agree with JeffP – after a long day in the studio tell my achin’ back, neck, hands, eyes, and bum that I’m not working hard.

    It’s infuriating to me that many people and organizations in this country (and world) think that because I’m an artist I’m not worth being paid for my creative ability. I come up with the visual method to convey your message. YOU couldn’t come up with it. But you don’t want to pay ME because I did? If I came up with a creative way to manufacture a widget, I’d be promoted to CEO. If I came up with a creative way to CURE cancer I’d get the Nobel prize. But because I draw for a living, I do it for the “FUN” of it and don’t deserve a living wage? GAH!

    I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked to “donate” work to raise money for organizations. Hell, I can do my own work for free. Why would I want to work for you for nothing? I don’t need your “exposure”. My work speaks for itself. That being said, I have and will donate work to organizations that I support for fundraising purposes. I agree with BradyDale – there’s a huge difference between the ACS and a local non-profit working on a shoestring budget. It’s just plain WRONG for the ACS to ask for a freebie when they could easily afford (and often DO) pay for similar services.

    I run into this all the time and it strikes a nerve big time. In this bad economy, not only do I have to compete with my professional peers for jobs, but I also compete with the amateurs who’ll do it for free for the “exposure”, those who are afraid ask for what they deserve (or need) to be paid, and the perception that what I do is so “FUN” that I would be just as happy to do it for free as get paid. PLUS being female I have the gender wage bias to deal with as well!!!

    Sorry for the rant. I guess I’ll go hide in my studio and drown my sorrows in paint and ink.

  46. Hey what’d I miss?

  47. AfterHoursAl,TM says:

    Yes, Ted should be paid. And it does seem cheap for a big name charity to ask for free work to be done in 2 weeks. So maybe Ted might negotiate for publicity, perks, or something else instead of cash.

    I wonder if Ivy responded to Ted’s answer?

  48. @Danny Hellman
    “Of course, one look at Rall’s drawings proves that some cartoonists don’t work as hard as others.” This made me laugh out loud! Well said. I have a large comics collection, and I’m a cartoonist myself. I quite a bit of your work and none of Rall’s, on purpose!

    (I think it’s the fact that I just don’t want his balls anywhere near me.)

  49. bad wolf says:

    I hate to say it but i agree 100% with Ted Rall. NPOs have gotten out of hand in some cases, and ‘non-profit’ only means that the organization doesn’t profit. They pay senior execs handsomely while using interns and other underpaid staff to run operations. The execs get a warm halo of respectability while (as TR notes) they are equivalent to a Fortune 500 company, and paid commensurately.

    I am pretty fed up with my professional organization that does little with our dues, ignores the economic conditions and employment figures, and pays its execs similar salaries.

  50. Way I see it, non-profits (and, heck, even for-profits) are welcome to ask freelancers for free work – and freelancers are just as welcome to say “yes” or “no” as fits their judgment.

    Hopefully, if enough “no” freelances give the kind of explanatory feedback Rall gave, organizations will start to get that independent creative workers deserve at /least/ some token compensation.

    As for the “yes” freelancers, hey, if donating their craft to an organization makes ‘em as happy as cash would, more power to ‘em.

  51. Cartooning may not be “hard work” in the same sence as lifting heavy boxes all day or being a Navy Seal, but anyone that thinks being a cartoonist is “easy” or is always a “joy” , CLEARLY they have never been a cartoonist or artist or had to deal with a picky client.

    I do a little Pro Bono Charity work every year, but they are small quick jobs that take a day or two. They are not part of a National Campain where there will be countless emails, roughs, drafts, revisions, multi use versions of the same characters totaling weeks of work to get to a finished product.

    Does this mean nobody should do Pro Bono jobs?, no, but it doesn’t mean groups with huge budgets should ask the lowest income workers to work for free either.

  52. The problem is that most people think that because a job looks fun, it must certainly be easy as well, and that is why so many people outside of the illustration, creative, or publishing industry always low ball artists.

  53. John Smith says:

    Of course cartooning is hard work. That’s why Rall’s so godawful at it.

  54. I’m merely a graphic designer, not one of yer cool kid cartoonists, but I run into similar situations like this all the time. One measure I use when I’m asked to do work for charity is whether I’m lending a hand to the charity’s cause or merely saving the charity a few bucks. I’m all for the former but I have to carefully consider the latter, depending on how big the charity is. The American Cancer Society is not Aunt Molly’s Non-Profit Rescue Kennel that needs a few fliers made.

    On my turf a “campaign” means brochures, signs, web graphics, tent cards, magazines, posters, CDs, and a whole shitload of hours of my time, and there’s no way I would (or could) do it gratis. One of those items pro bono, sure, why not. But we all have to decide our own limits for charity. I say, anybody who wants to should jump in and design the ACS’s smoke characters, and god bless ‘em.

  55. I love how Rall tries to characterize this as a “shakedown” on his blog. A shakedown is coercive, and there’s absolutely nothing coercive in the Cancer Society’s request. If the simple act of asking for money amounts to a coercive shakedown, then where is the outrage over the PayPal button on Rall’s own homepage? How long must poor websurfers be “shaken down” merely for visiting a website and seeing some really shitty comics?

  56. Synsidar says:

    To give people some idea of how the ACS uses its money, here’s a breakdown of the Midwest Division’s expenditures:

    Uses of Funds as a % of Total Expenses

    Programs: 79% Fund Raising: 19% Administrative: 2%

    Total income $54,306,583
    Program expenses $44,589,501
    Fund raising expenses 10,653,975
    Administrative expenses 1,317,416

    Total expenses $56,560,892
    Expenses in Excess of Income (2,254,309)
    Beginning net assets 68,838,135
    Other Changes in Net Assets (28,964)
    Ending net assets 66,554,862
    Total liabilities 17,873,520
    Total assets $84,428,382

    Two percent for administrative expenses seems to be quite low.

    SRS

  57. @Syndidar: That’s very selective reading. Why just the Midwest Division?

    You can find an excellent overview of the ACS’ finances here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=6495

    Lots of interesting facts. For example, one William Barram, National Vice President of Divisional Services, Retired, “earns” $1,550,705 for sitting at home watching TV. “Retired”!

    Again, I don’t mind donating to charities, even big ones, when everyone is working for free. I don’t get why some retired suit should pull down $1.5M a year—more money than most professional cartoonists will see in a lifetime—while cartoonists are expected to design characters for free.

    I don’t know what Hellman expects me to say here. “I am too not bad cartoonist?” Grow up, already. There’s a lot to criticize in my cartoons. Hellman’s too. Whatever. What does that have to do with the American Cancer Society?

    P.S. Disclosure: Some readers may not be aware that Daniel Hellman is a defendant in a lawsuit I filed against him for libel/impersonation/identity theft via emails he wrote to my editors under my name. Just guessing, but his opinion of my drawing ability MAY have been slightly impacted by this fact. Possibly.

  58. Let’s start a campaign to take the word FREE out of FREELANCER. It only means you’re free to choose who yo work for, lets make it PAID-LANCER.

  59. MBunge says:

    “I love how Rall tries to characterize this as a “shakedown” on his blog.”

    This to me seems like the central point. They asked. Rall declined. No harm. No foul. Why this has to be blown up into anything more than that is beyond me.

    As for cartoonists whining about how “hard” they work, you’ve got to be kidding me. Do cartoonists work hard? Hell yes. Is cartooning hard work? Hell no. Being a brain surgeon is hard work. Being a special ed teacher who deals with severly disabled children is hard work. Being a hospice nurse is hard work. Sitting on your ass and staring at a blank screen/drawing board may be difficult and challenging and you may work very hard to fill it up, but it’s not hard work.

    Mike

  60. Maybe I am biased, and maybe Ted Rall’s comics only suck half as bad as I think they do. Let’s form a blue ribbon panel of cartoonists who haven’t had nuisance lawsuits filed against them by Ted Rall and ask them for a ruling on his “drawings.”

  61. The Beat says:

    Danny, I don’t dispute your right to feel ire at Ted Rall, but your attacks on his cartooning skills are TOTALLY BESIDE THE POINT of this argument.

    Please, let’s stick to the topic at hand.

    MBunge, the whole hard work argument is also a red herring The point is working for free, whatever your profession.

  62. Chris Nelson says:

    I agree with Ted. The ACS is more a corporation than a charity these days. They can definitely afford to pay us lowly cartoonists a pittance for our work.
    I think the whole thing is being blown out of proportion simply because it’s Ted.

  63. Anyone miss how funny it is for the Cancer Society to ask Ted Rall for artwork?

    Ted Rall?

    Was Al Columbia too busy?

    (Seriously, this comment thread did the rare things by adding to the discussion, and after reading Rall’s further explanations, I’m glad he refused so publicly.)

  64. MBunge says:

    “the whole hard work argument is also a red herring”

    No. It’s an interesting side discussion. The rule on what is and isn’t hard work is you take personal enjoyment out and ask “If the other job paid more, would you switch and take it?” I’d bet most coal miners would jump at the chance to be cartoonists for better pay. I likewise doubt very few cartoonists would do the same no matter how much more they could earn in the mines.

    Mike

  65. Okay then, in the interest of limiting the scope of this discussion, (always a good thing) let’s agree that cartoonists are free to do pro bono work for charities when they want to, and are also free to whine about it when they don’t want to. THREAD CLOSED!

  66. Synsidar says:

    Lots of interesting facts. For example, one William Barram, National Vice President of Divisional Services, Retired, “earns” $1,550,705 for sitting at home watching TV. “Retired”!

    Yes, facts about the ACS and its divisions are widely available, and anyone who’s interested will find that the CEOs of other national charities are compensated well, too. That doesn’t mean that those charities aren’t worth contributing to, or that the ACS isn’t. Anyone who contributes to the ACS can do so knowing that most of the money will support programs. Whether he wants to contribute time, money, or his professional skills is a personal decision that’s good or bad for him, and no one else.

    SRS

  67. Chris Hero says:

    I take exception to the idea roofing is only hard work in July. I’ve been a roofer and it’s always a hard job. I’m an engineer now and I make a Hell of a lot more than any roofer does and the engineering job is *way* easier.

    Is being a cartoonist hard? I dunno, I’ve never been one. Still, comparing any job where you sit down in a temperature controlled room to manual labor jobs is kinda apples and oranges.

  68. Tom Spurgeon says:

    If anyone’s interested, I am currently soliciting pro bono cartoon work for my new charity, the Hard-Working Cartoonists Anti-Defamation League.

  69. BusinessBill says:

    We’re talking about $96…

    As a working comics professional, I can see arguments for both sides, but I am leaning towards the ANTI-TRALL side…

    First off, as TRall states,”A wildly successful cartoonist earns less than $25,000 per year.” That’s about $12/hr based on a $40 hr week. WOW. Part of the ROOT of the problem with the “outside world” devaluing artists and their work is because (some) artists undervalue themselves to begin with. So if you think $25k is “wildly successful”, then I’ve got some wake-up juice for you (but that’s a whole other discussion).

    So based on TRall’s fee of $12/hr, how much would it take to create THREE headshots for a charity (“…a pro bono cartoonist to create approximately three or more different QuitBuddy personas…”)? maybe a day’s (8 hrs) worth of work, so $96! Are we really arguing over $96!?! How much was TRall planning on billing the ACS for this gig had it been a paying project? Yes, this is a simplified calculation, but the final bill would not have been that much different — based on TRall’s rates.

    Yes, the “non-profit” label can be more misleading than anything, and they do have a substantial operating budget, comparable to that of actual “for-profit” corporations. But when a charity asks for pro-bono work, all you have to do is decline. If you were business savy, you might have looked at it as an opportunity to widen your audience. Negotiate a deal that you get your name or a tagline like “created by TRall” placed on the facebook art, with a link to your website. Ask for rights to sell the images on your site like on tshirts or prints. With the newfound traffic, you could sell more product — or get more donations (nothing like a “successful artist” with a tin cup out asking for loose change). All options that would more than recoup $96.

    But the IRONY here is that the ACS probably OVERVALUED TRall and his work, thinking he might have been in the position to create pro-bono work for a national campaign which in return might have brought a larger mainstream audience to his work. In parallel, TRall probably overvalues his work and is in need of a career change if $25k is all that he is making and he considers that successful.

  70. Ned No D says:

    Totally agree. Why shouldn’t artists get paid for their work? The worst part is that once you step on the free art for charities road that is all that will come your way from word of mouth- then everybody will be at your doorstep wanting free work and now. (I know). Then when you ask to be compensated the next time they roll around they throw a fit and then basically demand more free stuff. I say “No” anymore since many charities are acting this way. I understand for a good cause, but on the same note- why is my effort expected to be done free when no on else’s effort is?

  71. Haley Luyah says:

    I have not always been a fan of Ted Rall’s work or opinions, but in this case I agree 100%. The ACS is a huge money pit–about a decade ago (more or less) they had a cool billion in cash in the bank, which prompted a lot of public comment over just what they were doing with all that money. At the time, their mission–as defined on their site–did not include the word “cure” (tho I see that it does now, finally) If cancer were cured, the ACS would have no point and go out of business. And yet they have the gall to grub freebies from whoever they can.

    A simple contest would have been so much nicer: submit three sketches, and the winner will receive $1,000–something, anything other than grubbing for freebies.

  72. How much *I* earn isn’t the point. (I do earn more than $25,000. But I know many, many excellent and well-known cartoonists who earn less. Much less.)

    The point is, the Cancer Society CAN and DOES pay landlords, printers, lawyers and all sorts of other workers for their work. Why don’t they think cartoons–by me or by anyone else–aren’t worth anything?

  73. Haley Luyah says:

    Ted’s point is simple and correct, imo. All the trolling, goalpost-shifting, dull hypothetical “side discussions” about imaginary coal miners and brain surgeons is idiotic.

    The ACS thinks it’s sacrosanct because it hides behind a noble mission of “raising awareness” and “empowerment” and other nice feelgoodisms. They need to learn how to stop being so arrogant and greedy and pay the fuck up.

  74. Chris Nelson says:

    @BusinessBill:

    When you start your post using “TRall” you negate any point that you were trying to make. Though I suspect you really have no point, other than to be insulting.

  75. BusinessBill says:

    In contrary, “how much you earn” IS part of the issue. Because if it wasn’t “worth” your time, you would not even consider it. And obviously, this scenario irked you enough to publicly comment on this.

    As a professional artist, it is understood that you are going to get request after request after request for work. I get asked to donate my work almost every other day. The CBLDF went around the NYCC this past weekend asking for donations of work. They have a brick and mortar office with staff. The NYCC asked for artwork for the St.Judes Hospital at the show as well. Can’t get more brick and mortar than an actual hospital with paid doctors, nurses, staff, etc. Even smaller individual auction houses for the purpose of raising money for charities come asking all the time. What is the difference between them and the ACS? That the ACS pays it’s CEO $900k+ and the other don’t? And so is your argument, “if someone is getting paid, then why shouldn’t it be me?”

    So really, your argument is about how “OTHERS” don’t value the work of artists, and in particular, yourself.

    You are trying project an image of Ted Rall as that of a successful, well-published artist. One that should be PAID for his time and work. But what is out there — on your site — is that of a struggling/starving artist.

    You have an auction out on ebay to hire you ( http://www.ebay.com/itm/Have-Ted-Rall-Draw-Political-Cartoon-Just-You-/150676495180 ) that started at $.99!!! 99 cents is your starting rate. understand that reality! For a “wildly successful” artist!

    You have a paypal button to donate money to you, for no other reason than to help put food on your table.

    Yes, people and companies should value artists and their work, and that we as artists should take a stance against people who try to get something for nothing. But in this case, you are a little off the mark.

  76. Classic ad hominem attack. Ignore the idea, ridicule your opponent. I know how it works; I do it for a living.

    The problem for you, Bill, is that everyone else knows how it works too.

  77. John Smith says:

    Ted, maybe they only think YOUR cartoons should be free, and they’d pay well for other cartoonists’ work?

  78. Business Bill:

    So if you think $25k is “wildly successful”, then I’ve got some wake-up juice for you (but that’s a whole other discussion).

    No one thinks $25K is REALLY wildly successful–unfortunately that is the reality of the marketplace. Was Jack Kirby worth more than $25K (in 2011 dollars.) Is Frank Quitely? Is Michael DeForge?

    How or why Ted Rall chooses to make money is not germane to this discussion. As for having a tip jar on his site — he DOES work for it. I work for my Tip Jar (thank you very much.) Ted Rall is many things — lazy is not one of them.

    Once again, we ALL donate time and artwork to charities and non profits like the CBLDF all the time. This was more than just finding a spare sketch and turning it in for an auction however. It was designing three characters that will be used in an ongoing campaign. Who knows how popular they could become?

    Part of the reason why cartooning is so undervalued and underpaid is that people do accept jobs like this. Because comics happens to be one of the coolest, best jobs in the world.

    As for the whole “hard work” thing, it’s a complete straw man. Designing a bridge is not “hard work” by any of the standards being applied here. Does that mean it is not something that should be paid for commensurate with a level of skill? Cartooning is not a matter of life or death as is bridge design, but it is a skill profession — there are perks to the creative life, but unless you think the ideal state of creativity is working as a waitress during the day and creating Sailor Moon at night, it should be compensated at a living wage.

  79. BusinessBill says:

    I am not ignoring the idea. I think I clearly addressed it in my last post. The issue is that there are always many factors involved and it’s never really a simple ONE WAY OR THE HIGHWAY solution. Your position in this argument should not be explored because I believe there are some underlying reasons for your disgruntlement.

    There are many other instances where charities or non-profits ask for pro-bono work. Some doctors fly across the planet to treat sick people for free. They do so either because they feel that it serves a greater purpose, and/or that they might be financially capable of taking the time to pay back in a charitable way. Not everything you do needs to be paid.

    And what about the CBLDF or St.Jude’s Hospital? Were those not valid or comparable? They ask for work that cost money and time to create, to generate more funds to help their efforts. So should the CBLDF pay an artist to create a print for them? Maybe YES? Maybe NO? Does the president of the CBLDF draw a salary? And how much is too much when we should consider if we should DONATE to that organization?

    Your stance about CORPORATIONS paying money does not stand in this case because the work being generated is not a “for-profit” purpose. You are not asked to create a new “spiderman” or “superman”. You were asked to create THREE (3) headshots of characters that they had already generated a few ideas for. Hardly an entire “campaign” and hardly a rush job with impossible deadlines.

    a much more “professional” response would have been to state that you do not do pro-bono work, that your estimated budget for said work would be $96, and you might be able to negotiate a discounted rate in return for certain publicity regarding the project.

    If you wanted to make another statement about the corruption in this country regarding “non-profit” organizations, then I’m with you on that and we should expand that further, but that would move us away from this discussion.

  80. Your bizarre “$96″ meme makes your trollery clear, Bill. My initial letter, which you read above, makes clear what a reasonable fee would be for the job.

    There is no comparison between the CBLDF and the ACS. The CBLDF might be a tough call–if they pay staffers. I don’t know if they do. The ACS, on the other hand, is “non profit” in name only. They pay salaries higher than those paid to presidents of the United States to numerous people.

    If anything, a gig like the one they contacted me about is the culmination of a career, the chance to work for a huge, well-heeled client. The free and cheap work I did in the past for exposure was to get jobs like this. What’s the point of exposure, if all it gets you is more exposure–in venues that pay your fee to millionaire retirees?

  81. MBunge says:

    “As for the whole “hard work” thing, it’s a complete straw man.”

    If it’s a straw man, it’s one put up by Rall in the first place.

    “Cartooning is hard work, and it deserves recompense.”

    And if the American Cancer Society went around asking people to design bridges for free, that example might be germane to the discussion.

    Mike

  82. The relevant part of the phrase is this:

    ““Cartooning is work, and it deserves recompense.”

    Whether it’s hard or not — which is NOT the argument here — it should be compensated.

  83. BusinessBill says:

    I think we’re running around in circles here.

    You’re asking $10k for a project that entails approximately three (3) caricatures…

    That is just plain crazy. And I now see what kind of person I’m talking to…

    I have paying work to get back to…

  84. this is an extension of the SPEC and crowd sourcing mentality that is so prevalent these days.

    Graphic Designers, Photographers, Illustrators…we all get asked these same things all the time and are promised “exposure” and “portfolio pieces”. If you’re a professional you make your living from your talents. You deserve to be paid.

    If you take one of these free gigs, you are screwing over every single one of your colleagues by creating that standard with clients and devaluing your entire livelihood.

    Have some dignity. Have pride in your work, and don’t be afraid to place a value on it. High Fives to Ted Rall for having the guts to say no and educate a client.

  85. What is problematic to me is that the ACS isn’t asking for some spare artwork, say “Hey could you donate a sketch?” It is asking for design work, work that would normally be contracted out. It doesn’t matter how much a cartoonist makes, how easy/hard you think we work, or what subjective opinion you have about a particular cartoonist’s style: the bottom line is that this is something that should be contracted out; like their catering, their Internet installation or whatever else. How many revisions will they ask for? How many physical drawings will they require?

    Charities ask for free stuff all the time, but this is essentially asking for a volunteer without specifying how much time they will spend working for ACS. I think it would be more fitting to offer it as a volunteer position, not a donation.

  86. @Sabin: True, I probably wouldn’t have gone nuclear had they simply asked for a reprint of something I’d already drawn. Although, really, ACS can and should pay for those too.

  87. Jeff P. says:

    To Business Bill @ 12:35p 10/19—

    I’d tell anyone who offered to pay me $12 an hour for character design or a cartoon/comic to be used to raise THEIR income to take a hike. It is NOT just a matter of the time spent sitting at the drawing board. An artist’s skill, experience and imagination all pay a large part in setting a fee, hourly or otherwise. Trust me, when a plumber charges you $350 an hour, it’s not because that’s just what he thinks his time is worth.

    This is all about people not valuing an artist’s work monetarily because they think it’s “fun”, and will be “wonderful exposure”. I’d have jumped at a chance like that when I was 22. At 52, it takes more than exposure to pay my bills.

  88. MBunge says:

    “This is all about people not valuing an artist’s work monetarily”

    If the ACS has called up Rall or sent him a letter asking him to donate $96 and his response had been to go online and say “How DARE they ask me to give $10,000″, no one would think that reaction was a tad weird and disproportionate?

    A charity asking a cartoonist to donate some work to their organization does not strike me as exploitative.

    A cartoonist deciding he didn’t wish to donate his work does not strike me as unreasonable.

    A cartoonist getting pissed off because the charity wasn’t willing to pay him some arbitrary figure he pulled completely out of his ass does strike me as odd.

    Mike

  89. Hank Single says:

    I never get done being surprised at the vehemence with which people will disagree with/attack an idea just because it’s on the internet – and, further, the lengths some people will go just to maintain a contrary position, see Bill.

    I know people would still complain if this article was about how the ACS had requested free carpentry from a non-union (because we all know how much internet comment sections hate unions) laborer (because labor has been devalued, also), but the tone would be different – despite being the son of a carpenter and knowing how much more demanding of clever and timely it is than brutal or ‘hard’, the common conception would be that the carpenter ‘does work’ and the artist ‘draws silly pictures’.

    Again, only by comparison – everyone agrees, readily, that manual labor and retail are incredibly hard…but those don’t pay anything. Somewhere along the line, though, it’s as if people decided that was proper – so anyone who does less ‘work’ should be happy making less money than that.

    I’m spreading this article around – work should be compensated at a rate relative to the quality of it, the desire for it and the capacity of the solicitor.

  90. BusinessBill writes:

    “You’re asking $10k for a project that entails approximately three (3) caricatures…

    That is just plain crazy. And I now see what kind of person I’m talking to…”

    Considering how artists are constantly getting screwed out of royalties for work they did while corporations continue to capitalize on that work in every type of media in perpetuity, I don’t see what’s so crazy here.

    Perhaps if, in designing characters for a campaign for ACS pro-bono, they could provide a statistic of how much that work was WORTH that Rall or whatever artist could then claim on their taxes as a charitable donation, then doing the work might have more value.

    Any organization is going to track numbers for what kind of revenue a campaign makes, be it from donations or what-have-you. They have to have some sort of statistic for what made a campaign successful or not. If they’re thinking “maybe cartoons will help this campaign” then they have to have some sort of rationale behind that that can be whittled down to DOING X = Y POTENTIAL $.

    And anyone who donates to a charity is likely to have some sort of record of it that they can report on their taxes.

    But the IRS does not consider time and services as something you can deduct. The only way to deduct this sort of work as a charitable donation would be to have the ACS pay you for it, then you donate that money back to them. You can then deduct it, but at the same time you have to pay income tax on it.

  91. Also, this might be relevant:

    “Obama Solicits Designers to Work – Unpaid – on … Jobs Poster!”
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/obama-solicits-designers-to-work-unpaid-on-jobs-poster-20111019

  92. So many points to argue. Where to start?

    I’ll start by noting that Ted has knocked it out of the park. Requesting a donation for a project that is *not* a fundraiser but a campaign is just wrong, especially when you are well-funded charity like ACS.

    I also have one of those undervalued jobs that people assume I love to do so much that I do it for free at every opportunity. Obviously I’m not at the same scale as Rall, but I’m constantly amazed by how many people expect you to drop everything and rush to their aid.

    Value: Assigning an hourly rate to cartooning (or any art/skill) is like paying for groceries based on how long it took you to shop for them, or pricing a car solely based on its weight. You aren’t paying for time, you’re paying for expertise. You’re also paying for professionalism. If Rall agreed to do this, he’d be committing much more than the time it takes to draw the cartoons. He’d have to talk to the client to figure out what they need, possibly offer alternate versions of each illustration. He’d have to spend time waiting for feedback. He’d have to spend time communicating with the client, sending files back and forth. He’d have to deal with contracts about usage rights for the images. If they animate the images, he’d have to draw even more. There’s so much more involved than just drawing a few pictures. There is no “hourly rate” for what artists do.

    Supporting the Charity: Most of us already support a charity or two. If I’ve already dedicated a chunk of time/talent to a cause, I’m not in a position to donate more time to another charity, but when I turn them down, I’m accused of being selfish. I’ve gotten some nasty responses from charities when I suggested that rather than having *me* donate, they should find someone to sponsor my work and then *that* person would get credit as a donor. How dare I.

    Working for Free: This is something everyone in the arts has to deal with. People assume that because it’s “fun” (or looks fun) that we want to do it for free all the time. True, we usually start out doing what we do for fun (and practice). By the time you get to a point in your career where people are asking you to donate your time/skills, you’ve already done enough free work to improve your skills and shouldn’t be expected to do more free work just because it’s fun. This is why actors have unions…it’s the kind of thing that lots of people would do for free if the industry allowed them to. No matter what the talent, you will *always* find someone new enough that they’re willing to do it for free. Expecting established artists to work for free by request is unfair and unreasonable.

    Working for Exposure: Often they will couch their request for free work by proclaiming the benefit to the artist…free exposure, free publicity, etc. People often ask me to work for free and tell me they’ll “let” me hand out business cards. Here’s the math on that: I can work free for 3 hours and hand out 100 cards, or I can book a 3 hour paid gig and then spend that money on an ad that reaches 55,000. And I’ll be handing out cards at that paid gig, too.

    I doubt this is the first time Rall has been approached for free work, so I don’t fault him for not simply declining “respectfully” and letting it go. People and companies need to learn why artists can’t keep giving it away, and I hope the publicity around Rall’s response helps educate them.

    I’m all in favor of artists supporting their favorite charities with donations of time/skill or money, but I don’t like charities assuming that they should get everything free just because they are a charity.

  93. I’m not a cartoonist, but as a graphic designer, I get requests like this all the time.

    There is a big difference between doing some creative work for my local food bank o whatever that I know is small and has unpaid volunteers and maybe one or two paid positions, (everybody has to pay rent…) and a giant corporation.

    I would do work for free for one, but not for the other. Not when the person asking me probably makes twice what i do in a year already.

    My other favorite is businesses, regular for profit businesses that ask for rock bottom prices on my work, “you know, just so you can get your name out there, something for the portfolio, some exposure.”

    Nothing wrong with expecting to be paid for your work.

    I think Rall said something because being somewhat well know, his opinion would get a conversation started about this. but my friends and i have heard and discussed this back and forth many times.

    I work ful time at an office and one of the things I hear a lot is “Oh, I wish I had your job, it looks like so much fun!” like the work just pours out of me with no effort at all.

    I bet they wouldn’t ask the plumber to unclog their toilets for free would they?

  94. oops, chicago fish just said the same thing as me, only much more eloquently…

  95. You know, while the ACS has never asked for my Engineing skills for free, they do regularly ask me for money. I’ve never really taken this kind of request as an indication that my money is worthless.

    Their sole mode of operation is asking for donations. In this case, they were simply asking for donated services instead of donated goods or donated cash.

    Of course, it’s entirely up to someone whether they want to use their resourses to support an organization, and Ted’s decision to decline is perfectly fine. But I think it’s a bit of an overreaction to claim that the solicitation was improper.

    Certainly no one would object as strenuously ACS asked them for money or used clothing… right?

  96. This email exchange is getting a lot of traction in the regular freelance illustration world, too. We’re all in the same spec work/free work world.

  97. Disgruntled Panda says:

    @Rall

    Don’t listen to Hellman – he’s jealous of your success. How’s the lawsuit going? If you need any more incriminating evidence against Danny, there’s a shitload of it in the archives at trollkingdom.net where he posted at for years.

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