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Charging relatives

 So in my family, I'm pretty well known as 'the artist.' My family knows I do art for a living, and support me going forward in an art related career.

However, I'm constantly asked to do free art for them. Like, "can you do a portrait of your cousins? Oh I think a picture would look nice here, why don't you draw something up?" I'm also expected to draw something every time there's a birthday or holiday, again regardless of my schedule or if I even want to draw something. I'm frequently approached by them, despite the fact that I constantly tell them I'm busy. I've also told them that I'd really prefer if they actually paid me to do art for them, but they always get insulted, saying "but we're FAMILY!" and "You know we don't have money! Why can't you just draw something nice for your -cousin, niece, grandma, etc-?"

I don't want to take time out of my already packed schedule to stop and do several pieces of art for free, but I'm also feeling a bit guilty. I know they don't even have the $10 I charge for a sketch, and they really do like my work and want an original piece. However they seem to feel a bit entitled to free art from me, just because we're related, even if I have rent to pay myself.

Has anyone here had to deal with family expecting free art? How have you dealt with it? Do you think it's unfair to ask family for payment like any other customer? How do you think I should start handling this other than always going "Sorry, I can't work on anything but commissions right now" like a broken record?

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Jul. 18th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC)
Try and finagle a barter set-up. Yeah, I'll draw a portrait of Second Cousin Beuford, in exchange for a batch of that kick-ass lasagna that Aunt Marjorie makes. You want Grampa and Gramma Phillips drawn up for their anniversary? Sure - for 2 weeks' worth of laundry getting done...

Your art is valuable to them, and your time is valuable to you. Do art for them in exchange for what else is valuable for you. That is when you (and they) will discover how much your art is worth, at the end of the day.

Jul. 18th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC)

Very clever. I did the same for making a huge sword for a friend in exchange for her awesome cookies.
(no subject) - thornwolf - Jul. 18th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jul. 18th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
I have a similar problem, except it's friends, as my family couldn't care less about my art.

I've had friends who want me to do HUGE projects for art for them. Like, stuff for games they're making or businesses or the like. They just.. kind of expect me to do it for free, and when I tell them I really need to be paid, they're like 'Oh, okay, well, how about pizza money?' like ten dollars is going to really cover the kind of stuff they want.

I just tell them I'll let them know if I get any free time. It feels so disrespectful of them, they think art is such an easy thing. But that applies to lots of people who think we just crap the stuff out.
Jul. 18th, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
If it's for a commercial venture, ALWAYS charge. No matter who it's for, it's just a lot easier in the long run.
(no subject) - kayla_la - Jul. 18th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)

Do they do something for a living? Ask them would you do "insert whatever it is" for free? This especially works if they work in a job where they have to expend materials before they get paid.

It's not unfair to expect them to pay, a plumber or an electrician would still charge a family member something for the work, is you job any less worth being paid for?

If this still doesn't work either tell them no or arrange to barter for something.
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
Depends on the family. A lot of the time, plumbers and electricians and dog groomers and car mechanics and whatever else do work for free when it's a relative. Asking for money could be really insulting/rude in some family dynamics.

I like the barter idea, though.
(no subject) - mandyseley - Jul. 19th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC) - Expand
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Jul. 18th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
I don’t get pestered too often, but my family and I have pretty much developed an un-spoken contract haha. If I have art I did for myself (usually wildlife) that I have had laying around, or not displayed for a while. They usually adopt those as gifts. That’s good for me because when I experiment mediums I am usually not that attached to what I churn out, and my mother especially loves to pinch my works for her wall XD

If they ask for custom artworks however, especially if they want it to gift somone, I will charge. I usually give them a pretty good discount, but as far as I am concerned they are asking for a service which is my job. If I wish to gift free art ill do it and suprise them myself, and they totally understand this :D
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
I know I'm in the same boat you are. The best thing I can tell them is that paid customers come first, always. =\ If I have time between commissions, I may squeeze something in, but I can't guarantee it.

Thankfully, my family knows how long it takes me to do something and they're a little more understanding. When my grandmother died, I designed and colored a large lady bug poster to put out with the rest of her pictures and such. From start to finish I did it during the viewing hours of her funeral. It was pretty much the only way I could stay sane during that time. It gave them a better understanding at how much time something takes to make.
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
My immediate family's made up of artists :p (musicians AND visual artists), so I guess I'm lucky in that everyone knows full well what art involves and expects to have to pay for a family member's art if we want it. Even my extended family's understanding about it.

No, it's not unfair to ask to be payed. Art is work, regardless of who it's for--and with how often family and friends can ask for art, that in and of itself can take up as much time as a small side job! The pay doesn't have to be money, as another commenter suggested--your family may be more open to swapping things for your art than handing over cash, I don't know.

Whatever goes down, unfortunately I think this may be a situation where the 'broken record' is called for. Yes, people will be miffed initially, but if you stand your ground they will eventually get the hint. Speaking from experience*, it's much better to sustain people being miffed at you for a bit than to be getting constantly ripped off.

*Experience was with a former roommate, not a family member, but the same principle applies.
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC)
It's the same in any profession. Every person who works in IT, is asked "Hey, I think my computer has a virus on it. Will you take a look?". If you're a doctor, it's "Hey, I have this bump on my leg". If you're a chef, good luck trying to get out of cooking for thanksgiving.

Generally, most people have a cut off point. As long as the small favors are in fact, small, then it's usually an act of goodwill or an unspoken barter system. It also is good practice, as noone can argue about experimenting with a different style or technique in gift art.

Also, not promising anything sometimes helps. Phrases like "I dunno if I have the time, I have a lot of projects for paying customers on my table." and remind them of the dozen or so other requests to get the point across that they're burdening you.. "You mean in addition to that picture you asked me to do for grandma, you also want me to do another for my cousin's graduation, and their nephew's birthday... not to mention the centerpiece for your wall and the sketch you asked me to do so dad could put it on his office wall at work?"

On the other hand, don't forget that your art can be both a business card, as your family will show off the work to every person they meet. you can even give them a small stack of business cards along with the artwork for them to pass out. Finally, that picture will always be a constant reminder of you. Every time they look at the drawing, your name will pop into their heads. Art can be a special thing amongst close relatives, they might be using it as a way to incorporate you more into their daily lives or preparing for when you're no longer around as much.
Jul. 19th, 2010 03:55 am (UTC)
Bleah, my family did that to me. Asked me to fix the computer and then when I couldn't, said "isn't that what we sent you to school for??"

It took me YEARS to explain that "studying computers" doesn't automatically mean "I know how to fix computers."
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
Oh my god I could have written this ;___;

It's always "Why can't you JUST draw something for X holiday" It's so infuriating. Like drawing something is so trivial, I don't think they have a concept of how many hours it takes.

I've gotten to where I never draw something when they ask me to, I do it when they don't expect me to, like very special milestone birthdays or something. I just tell them approx how long something like that would take me, that I make $X an hour roughly so it would be cheaper for me to spend $40 and get them something they can actually use/need for birthday/holiday.

Its a compromise, but its made them appreciate my art even more because its no longer on a whim, its on my own terms and they'll get it when I decide to give it to them.

When secondary relatives like aunts and uncles I don't see all the time ask me for this I listen to their idea and I go "okay that will be $XX dollars" and when they balk I tell them "look, if I had a good paying steady job and this were just a hobby I do on the side I'd be able to do it pro bono but currently this is my job and all I have to sell is my time. Time spent doing this is time I could spend making money, so that's money lost. I wish it were different but its not". I have done/said this before and of course there's the typical familial argument but I stick to my guns and they stopped asking me without offering compensation or a trade.
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC)
long comment is loooong
I have a similar problem except that I am an EVMT. To give a clue with what I put up with:
-My sister refusing to take care of her animals when we both lived at home for a spell, saying that because I was an EVMT I should be the one take care of them for her.
-Family members constantly asking me for advice even though I am not a veterinarian and cannot legally give medical advice. The worst was when my uncle's vet told him to transfer his dog with a punctured lung to Cornell and he wasted time calling me to chit chat about it.
-People expecting me to do nail trims, pet-sitting, anal glands, ear cleanings, vaccines (WTF) or in the case of my sister drive animals to a vet for wellness exams.

At first I wanted to be agreeable but it really wore me thin after a while, especially people's expectations that I would do these things any time for free. I had to sit everyone down, starting with my nuclear family and everyone but my sister was able to reach an understanding.
-My time is worth money. I told my sister that my salary started at $15/hr and gave an additional price list for how much it would cost to have me pet sit/do maintenance/etc.
-My time is different. I am nocturnal for my full time job. That job eats 12 hours of my day with overtime. If you want this stuff done, you will do it when I am normally awake and not a moment before. BTW I charge more for services than your regular vet does and she's open at 11am.
-I will barter for certain things. When I moved back home from college, instead of paying rent to my parents I handled all of our farm work as well as my mom's pets.
-While I don't mind the occasional question about animal health please note that I will most likely tell you "needs to be seen now, needs to have an appointment for this week" and if we're lucky "Lemme pull that tick off."

I'm not sure how this can transfer for art but I know your frustration and it sucks. Don't let your family and friends walk all over you. Let them know that your time is taken up by your work and it will come first. If they are like my sister, they probably see you doing something that you love and don't understand that when you are off the clock you just want to watch TV, like when they get home from their jobs. Not do more work!
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
Re: long comment is loooong
I think your situation is even worse because there's other lives at stake. That sounds awful!
Re: long comment is loooong - kadaria - Jul. 18th, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: long comment is loooong - hobokitten - Jul. 18th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: long comment is loooong - kadaria - Jul. 19th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC)
We own an auto repair business and my Dad is constantly doing free work on cars for friends and family. It drives mom and I nuts because it costs us a lot of money, but this is what bothers me about it:

If you allow it once, the family will expect it from you from then on out, and they WILL take advantage of you. Be careful of that. :\
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
IA with this. After I did a few free things for family, I got "volunteered" to do a shitload of things without anyone telling me until the day of. Events where face painting was needed? Me. Drawing a huge, complex family tree for the reunion? Me. Designing a t-shirt logo for the family t-shirts? Me. (They didn't even use it in the end!) Sketching portraits of the children? Me.

No. No, no, no. It's a very slippery slope, and at least with my family, there's a huge guilt trip involved if you don't do it.
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
I think this video can help you say what you're trying to express to your family in better terms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY

If you sold cars for a living, you wouldn't be able to give all your family members free cars.
If you worked as a server in a restaurant, you wouldn't be able to give your family free meals.
If you worked at a store in the mall, you wouldn't be able to give your family free stuff.

What do you do for a job right now? Are you working or are you a student? Then your time is valuable and deserves to be compensated. It doesn't just have to be money, though, as snobahr makes a valid point. If you're taking the time you'd normally do for chores to make art instead, then have your time compensated by making someone else do your laundry or wash dishes. My family pays me for art because they understand the time it takes me, but I still give them a discount. Every business gives discounts of one kind or another to their family, but freebies are rare, and gifts should be a surprise- NOT expected just because you're the artist in the family.

Your problem may stem from that your family does not understand the amount of time that goes into your work. Do you know how long it takes you to make a full piece? Let's say it's about 20 hours, if you're doing a big portrait piece. That's including ALL the time you spend on it: sketching, gathering references + materials, the actual painting, and framing. If you wanted to get it done in a week, and you were working full-time? That's about 4 extra hours Monday-Friday, or working a second part-time job. Ask your family, "Would you come home and start working a second job for free?" If their answer is no, why should yours be yes?

Art does not magically happen and then fall out of your butt as a masterpiece. You deserve respect and you deserve to be compensated at an appropriate rate.

Edited at 2010-07-18 06:39 pm (UTC)
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
Ugh, I hate this so much. Growing up I'd always ended up guilt-tripped into doing all the drawings for my brother and sister's school projects and even now my mother bothers me to draw things for free for her friends and whatnot. Even explaining the whole 'art takes time and money, would you do your job for free?' thing to her she just settles back on the ridiculous notion that if I do this thing for X friend for free this one time(read: many times) then maybe it'll lead to more pay jobs.

It drives me crazy.
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
I've simply given my family a piece or two they wanted that I was feeling alright about parting with. For the most part they're aware I don't have the time needed to work on an actual piece for them.
I'd make them aware of the situation.
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a family problem. My dad's family is like that- they expect certain (rediculous and unreasonable) things simply because of an over-inflated duty to family. It also sounds like a problem of your family not respecting your career as a career.

I can't answer what to do with your family as they're all so different, but in mine, when it has come up, I respond by explaining that a single piece can take 10-50 hours...usually people don't realize how long it takes, and for me this will usually make most people respect what it is they're really asking for. To be asked to do art for free would be like someone to ask for me to take a couple days off of work to do their yardwork for free.

Another approach I've used is to let them know that you can't take the time off of work to do free stuff right now- but they're welcome to a huge discount when you reach the end of your obligation(commission/con prep) pile. I also tack on that unfortunately, it may be 6-18 months before that happens. They're welcome to pay close to the full amount to get in line now.

If they're being a bit rude or pushy with it past the basic guilt trip, you can always try asking them to do their profession for you in return(whether you actually need it or not, it gets the point across). If they want 30 hours from you, then you want 30 hour of free doctor appointments, 30 hours of consulting, 30 hours of free accounting, 30 home cooked meals from cook to clean, etc. Then tell them that this is your career and they need to respect it as such, and every single time they ask you to do something for nothing, they are disrespecting and disregarding you.

Nothing works for everyone, but these are all three things I've used on different people who have asked for free art as a friend or family member.
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
Just draw them stick figures, haha, always worked out for me.

This has happened to me even with friends. And I always give them stick figures.
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