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Being asked a while back to pro­vide some advice to artists on pay and pric­ing mat­ters for a new web­site was the gen­er­a­tor of this short text. It begins with sum­maris­ing some of the issues and ends with a few sug­ges­tions for what artists might do to improve their chances of mak­ing a liv­ing while steadi­ly mov­ing their art prac­tice forward.

The con­text

In an ide­al world, it would be all plain sail­ing this mon­ey and pric­ing thing for artists. Every­thing in the way of work and oppor­tu­ni­ties in the visu­al arts – par­tic­u­lar­ly in the fund­ed visu­al arts — would be open­ly adver­tised. Employ­ers and com­mis­sion­ers would all be very well-informed about artists and their pro­fes­sion­al terms and eco­nom­ic expec­ta­tions. All artists would know the ropes pro­fes­sion­al­ly speak­ing, whether a new grad­u­ate or estab­lished artist and what­ev­er their type of prac­tice and audience. 

But this isn’t how it is. Employ­ers may know very lit­tle about artists and their needs and expec­ta­tions for artis­tic devel­op­ment and eco­nom­ic reward. As Aus­tralian per­for­mance artist Julie Vul­can com­ment­ed, pro­duc­ers and com­mis­sion­ers can’t ever know exact­ly where you’re com­ing from and are not psy­chic, so: Nev­er assume any­thing”. Artists have var­ied pro­fes­sion­al needs and artis­tic aspi­ra­tions and their fam­i­ly and per­son­al cir­cum­stances dif­fer too. There is no one-size-fits-all’.

Guid­ance material 

Infor­ma­tion on artists’ fees is read­i­ly avail­able from long-stand­ing indus­try bod­ies such as a‑n The Artists’ Infor­ma­tion Com­pa­ny, Scot­tish Artists Union and Visu­al Artists Ire­land. The guide­line day and annu­al rates they each pub­lish are well-researched and, impor­tant­ly, are backed by the high num­bers of artists they con­sult with and whose inter­ests they rep­re­sent. Bod­ies such as Arts Devel­op­ment UK, and the arts coun­cils in Eng­land, Scot­land and Wales also sign­post to these indus­try rates to employ­ers and com­mis­sions. In the case of Arts Coun­cil Eng­land which pub­licly states its com­mit­ment to fair pay across the visu­al arts, it is sign­post­ed with­in the infor­ma­tion guid­ance for all appli­cants for the Grants for the Arts Scheme. 

Regret­tably though, many artists fare bad­ly in the earn­ing a liv­ing game – they are bare­ly scrap­ing by. This is not to say all artists are poor or need to be. Many do make a rea­son­able liv­ing, often because some­one oth­er than them­selves is doing the nego­ti­a­tions and han­dling the dis­cus­sions about money.

Improve your chances 

Any guide­lines are only as good as the work that goes along around them which means artists them­selves have a vital part to play in mak­ing their own case about their spe­cif­ic eco­nom­ic needs. In this very short resource, here are a few sug­ges­tions for artists who want to improve their own and their fam­i­ly’s liveli­hood and to be able to afford to be more ambi­tious with their practice. 

  • Know what you need to earn – don’t expect employ­ers or com­mis­sion­ers to know your pre­cise needs and circumstances.
  • Prac­tice being busi­ness-like – that doesn’t mean you have to put prof­it first. But be objec­tive about each oppor­tu­ni­ty that comes under your radar. Weigh up the pros and cons. Many are just not worth the effort of mak­ing a pro­pos­al or appli­ca­tion. If it sounds too good to be true it prob­a­bly is. Con­cen­trate on the ones which are most in tune with your artis­tic ambitions.
  • Learn how to nego­ti­ate – it’s a life skill which all free­lancers need whether in the arts or else­where. Prac­tice your nego­ti­at­ing skills at every oppor­tu­ni­ty so that when you need them for art, they come nat­u­ral­ly to you.
  • Strength­en your pro­fes­sion – spread the word about the good com­mis­sion­ers and employ­ers whose terms and con­di­tions are favourable to artists. Use the eval­u­a­tion process to feed­back to those who could do bet­ter as well as to find out where you your­self could do bet­ter next time.
  • Take charge — it’s you who respon­si­ble for mak­ing sure your needs are met. No one oth­er than you has your best inter­ests at heart and remem­ber, shy bairns get nowt’.

Fur­ther reference 

Col­lec­tion: Nego­ti­at­ing bet­ter select­ed from a‑n resources by Susan Jones (mem­ber­ship required to access) https://www.a‑

Guid­ance on fees and day rates for visu­al artists 2017, a‑n The Artists Infor­ma­tion Com­pa­ny https://static.a‑

Julie Vul­can: artists’ self-care @ I’m still stand­ing: how to keep sur­viv­ing as an artist video https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​G​E​u​6​w​N​NSck8

SAU Rates of Pay guid­ance for the year 2016- 17 http://​www​.sau​.org​.uk/​r​i​g​h​t​s​/pay/

VAI Visu­al Arts Pay­ment Guide­lines for Pro­fes­sion­al Visu­al Artists http://​visu​alartists​.ie/​t​h​e​-​m​a​n​u​a​l​-​a​-​s​u​r​v​i​v​a​l​-​g​u​i​d​e​-​f​o​r​-​v​i​s​u​a​l​-​a​r​t​i​s​t​s​/​t​h​e​-​g​u​i​d​e​l​ines/


Extend­ed text from an orig­i­nal com­mis­sioned as a video by The Art of Liv­ing Dan­ger­ous­ly http://​theartofliv​ing​dan​ger​ous​ly​.com/​?​p​a​g​e​_​i​d=277