Takin’ the Free Out of Freelance

Freelance illustration - Dani Alvarez - Pyragraph

This was originally published at how to be what you want and is posted here with kind permission.

The other day I submitted for a freelance job posting on Upwork (formerly oDesk), a site for freelancers and those seeking freelance work.

Below I will outline the chain of events within that 38[ish] hour period, paralleled by my thoughts and emotional reactions (via emoji) as they unfolded.

10:30pm scours Upwork for ‘illustrator’ gigs. 01 *hope

11:30pm has bookmarked plus or minus fifteen different jobs. 02 *exhaustion/slight despair

12:00am is frustrated just thinking about putting a resume together and making a profile catchy and cool enough to land one of these jobs. 04*overall frustration/slight hunger

12:15pm eats a cookie, brushes teeth, goes to bed.  03.jpg*exhaustion + sugar rush

1:00am after the usual bedtime browsing of all social media, looks again at Upwork. Finds a perfect post! Post reads something like: “Are you a nerd? Do you love drawing superheroes? Seeking a nerd to draw superheroes. Compensation: $250.” Thinks, “Has there ever been a more perfect job ever?” and, “That’s a good amount of money for one piece,” and, “I will apply tomorrow.”05*hopefulness + weird stomach ache from too much sugar before bed

1:30am dreams of the Flash telling her how great of an artist she is. 06.jpg *bliss

11:00am at work, pretends to work but actually writes a proposal/artist statement for the Upwork job. It reads something like: I am a nerd, I draw superheroes all the time in my own fun style, I especially like Rogue and the Flash, please hire me. I can work a reasonable amount of hours and expect to receive in full your stated budget.” 07*guilt for not working on actual work stuff during work

11:30am – 11:30pm radio silence.  08*terror-filled panic and insecurity

12am checks gmail. notification from Upwork! New message from nerd-seeker! Reads: “Blah blah blah – one drawing every day for one month” 09*stress, that’s a lot of work

12:01am keeps reading: “… $250/month, negotiable[ish].”10*confusion? That’s not a lot of money, even if I negotiate it won’t be much more

12:01:30am still reading: “… Before you accept, do a drawing combining two characters from two different comic worlds.“ Tosses and turns and Googles instead of sleeping.11*annoyance at actual lack of knowledge of anything without Google

12:30am and finally thinks of something brilliant.12 *wonders if it really is brilliant or just exhausted

12:45am no time for sleep, must draw… falls asleep 13*anxiety dreams

5:50am wakes up, thinks of a better iteration of previous idea, starts to think about how much time it will take. 14*barely awake, not processing emotion

10am at work, wonders whether she is getting ripped off for her ideas and her time, just because she is a desperate artist looking for ‘experience’ to put on currently tiny resume. 10 *confusion

12pm still wondering about self worth, g-chats roommate, gives all details. Wise roommate responds, “THAT IS NOT ENOUGH HELL NO DON’T BITCH.” Thinks of how much she appreciates roommate/wifey.  06*so much love

12:15pm calculates that $250 per month would amount to $8.30 per concept and final drawing (which is at least 3 hours of work), which ends up being LESS THAN $3 PER HOUR.  Is suddenly filled with rage. 15*a lot of rage – like, steam shooting out of ears kind of rage

12:30pm types up email to respond, something like: “No I won’t do work for you, you cheapass buttmunch dork who probably liked George Clooney as Batman and doesn’t appreciate artists or their time or their craft, NO I WILL NOT WORK FOR YOU EVERY DAY.”  16*heavy breathing/sweating

1:00pm deletes email word by word. Instead replies, “Sorry don’t have a lot of time to complete drawings every day! Thank you so much for your consideration! Please think of me for any future projects!” 17*self loathing


So what’s my issue here? Why am I punishing you with the descriptive hell that is my emotions?

My problem is, I may not have settled for that job, but someone else is going to. And that dude, that Clooney lovin’ asshat, is gonna keep underpaying people with talent, people who spend hours and hours thinking and inventing and creating and perfecting, and it’s just not right.

You wouldn’t offer or even expect to pay your accountant 80 cents an hour, so why are you doing that to your artists? (And before you go saying that one thing is more important than another, please shut up instead. Then check out this cool and informative infographic). As artists, designers, makers, creators, and especially as women, we need to start requiring the respect and pay we work our asses off for.

And here let me stress the “work our asses off” part, because this is most important.  I’m not saying that those who pencil sketch a superman logo on a page with no thought or care for its character and quality should get paid big bills. I’m saying that creativity and craft and extra hours worked to make something of true value should, in turn, be valued.

So, dear starving, beautiful, desperate genius—please don’t take these cheap soul suckers seriously, and start seeking out and demanding proper compensation for your quality work.  You deserve it, and we all deserve to be shown a little bit more respect. And by respect, I mean dolla, dolla, billz.

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