Giving Away Your Art

Giving away anything for free has to be one of the most marketable techniques available. It allows people who wouldn’t necessarily want to spend the money on something without first personally experiencing it to try it.

You can suddenly become a more likeble person because you’re not afraid to give away your work but you’ll probably think to yourself “I can’t afford to give away something, especially since it cost money and time to produce it.”

Not everyone signs on to the approach of giving away their work including myself, although I have done it in the past but this tweet had me thinking more about the approach one may think is needed to feel more establish in a niche.

It’s not your work that is valuable, but your skill. Distribute your work freely. If it’s any good, people will pay for the use of your skill.

Michael DeYoung also shares an opposite view but also a valid point -

Your photography has value and so does your time – just like the person on the other end. Don’t give your work away to get established. Bartering and horse trading are fine in some circumstances as long as you are getting something tangible of real value.

Being compensated for your work is a sign of value for your craft but there’s times when the mere appreciation of your work is enough payment if the art has caused the viewer to step back a bit more to admire it and of course if you can afford to donate it. For me that extra step back counts. On one occasion, I didn’t just give away one of my photographs for the sake of publicity. The publicity I received from this person was a bonus. I sent a print to a fellow blogger whose written work I deeply admire so having to cover the expensive of printing a 20″x30″ photograph was not an issue.

It’s always thrilling to receive emails from Fotomoto notifying me there’s a transaction to be processed when a print sells but every now and then I don’t mind gifting a print to someone who’s impacted me in one way or another. Friends often comment how fond they are of a particular photograph and I’ve surprised them by having it professionally printed and their reaction has been one that I don’t think would have been replicated if money was involved.

When it comes to my work, I’m not one to reject a payment from anyone but I’ve learned it doesn’t always have to be about it and I attribute in adopting this thinking to Seth Godin after having read Linchpin. Among my favorite passages in the books is this one -

Some people think that you can’t be generous until after you become a success. They argue that they have to get theirs, and then they can go ahead and give back. The astonishing fact is that the most successful people in the world are those who don’t do it for the money.