Airbrush mistake #4: Don't fall for this!

There is a tool used against artists. Some people think that it is a substitute for money. The claim is that it will gain the artist a lot of business, and therefore the artist should reduce their fee. However, artists tend to forget that the job they do will earn them this anyway, regardless of whether they were paid or not. The device they use against artists is called exposure.

We've all heard it before. "Let me have your art for a cheap price, and I'll get you tons of exposure." Yes, exposure is a value, but it won't pay the bills. It is only speculation for future business. Future business that may or may not happen. Take the money instead.

As an illustrator, I painted Star Trek novel covers for a number of years. They sold millions of copies, but I never received a single commission from those covers despite the exposure. Don't count on exposure.

The other tactic is to offer the artist a lower price with the promise of more business later. Don't fall for this one either. Get paid what you are worth for the job you do. If you aren't sure what to charge, try this: figure out how much you want to make per hour, estimate how long it will take you, multiply the two numbers......Then double it. Simple.

The next time a client offers exposure of future business in lieu of money tell them "no thanks." 

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February 17, 2016

I have fallen for that in my past. I painted a Harley for “exposure” at Sturgis…all they really wanted was an awesome new paint job to show off to friends. I got nothing out of the deal except wasted time. Yeah don’t fall for it.

De Anne Lamirande

February 17, 2016

Great tip, I have only worked for one client that got me more business, and I have been at it for 25 years. I tell trade shows they should give me a PROMO booth and I will bring something to their show in lieu of rent, we both gain promotion.

Dave Heath

February 17, 2016

This is so true client’s love to throw this one at you in hopes of a “deal”!….I usually ask them do you go to work for free?,they get the message real fast.

kelly Shane southerland

February 28, 2016

I have heard this .all the time .expecially friends and Co workers.they say it’s just art ,take a few minutes and just throw something together..think of the exposure.

Jeff pugh

March 02, 2016

An there it is! Perfectly said. Many people all love what you do an then insult you for the purchase. Somehow it is believed that “artists” are people that live life like gypsys an are not a real career. Though this never stops the love of art, it’s just easy to look down at us artists somehow cause we don’t have an office that was free just for signing with a major company. Well for all the artists out there never accept the hand out prices or insults. Your office is your studio an I promise you, your work in that studio is filled with more passion than making six digits in a corporate office where you are a number that’s replaced in one phone call. As an artists you bring the world something special that others can not. How much is that worth?

Blacksmith Rod Customs

March 06, 2016

I really like the formula I will defiantly apply it to my next contract
I’ve been burned on that exposure deal before it wont happen again.

Fred Wagner

July 07, 2016

Being involved in airbrush for 34 years I have had everyone of these used on me. I have even had to watch tons of jobs walk away because I was told I am asking to much. The value of art is what the artist values it at not the consumer. When I painted t-shirts for a living it became a job and no longer a joy. Now I paint for me and if I sell I sell, but my advice is ask for what you want not what your told.

Dustin Goodwin

December 14, 2017

Here’s what I’ve thought about this for instance a guy wants me to airbrush multiple pieces on his motorcycle, prep, and clear them afterwards as well. I’m considering charging $2500 so I know he’s gonna hit me up with exposure bucks and I’ve thought of a possible solution. I’ll offer him a 10% referral fee after his friends have paid for work in full up to x amount. what are your thoughts on this idea?


August 11, 2019

That was awesome.

Bruce Boatner

October 14, 2020

Ah yes, “exposure”! My other love in life is music. It’s understandable that you might have to audition for a job, but one club owner had the gall to ask me to “audition” with my band from 9PM to 1AM on a Friday night! Here in Boise there’s an annual week-long music festival and bands come from all over the West to play – for free! This willingness to “play for exposure” makes it extremely difficult for local musicians, after earnestly investing countless hours and dollars, to get the compensation they deserve.

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