It seems like Spec Work and/or crowd sourcing is on the rise in the world of illustration. That’s a big change from the days of big studios, and it scares a lot of folks, but I say the only thing constant in life is Change. It’s sad sometimes, and a joyous thing at others.
I think that folks who rally against spec work are terrified of Change, and not really thinking things through. The logic that I have heard used so far has always been some variation on the following:
“You cheapen the value of the work if you do work for free.”
Here’s the thing – I think that they might be right. I get it. I understand the logic behind “If the customer gets it for free, why would they pay for it?” While there may be some validity to that line of reasoning, I think it misses the point. Or perhaps it’s better to say that it misses two points:
1. Someone, somewhere is going to do the work for free (or at least way cheaper). In a world where anyone with an internet connection can create an image and ‘ship’ it almost instantly to a customer virtually, the only real limitation is that initial connection between customer and service provider. Whether it’s the young illustrator looking for ‘experience’ or even a professional living in another region where they can live quite comfortably on far less – it doesn’t really matter. The world is getting smaller, and that’s a significant cause for change – whether we like it or not.
2. The spectrum of illustrators/artists is just getting larger. Does that mean more competition? Yes. Does that mean professionals will have to work harder at marketing their work? Unfortunately, yes. But here’s the thing – the quality that professional produces will be (I would expect) far better than the person who’s willing to do the work for free. Let the newb or amateur take the low hanging fruit that is the free/cheap jobs. Reserve your time and effort for the bigger, more valuable jobs.
I find myself thinking of this new mindset as a bit of a tidal wave. Like any large risk headed in my direction, I find myself trying to think ahead and prepare myself. This makes me think that the best approach is to figure out a couple of things:
1. Where do I fit in that spectrum of artists?
2. If this frame of mind becomes the new ‘standard’, how can I best position myself to get more (and better paying) work?
Doesn’t that seem more sensible than trying to manage the mindset of artists and illustrators the world over? Focusing on my niche (whatever that may be) instead of worrying about what someone else might be willing to do for free or cheaper than me?
What do you think? Is there some vantage to this that I’m just not seeing?
I welcome your thoughts.