Asking and getting

There’s so much things I’m taking away from Amanda Palmer’s TED talk about asking. About how artists should be able to give and receive fearlessly. While I’m not a fan of her music, I am a fan of what she represents. And this quote from her talk speaks to me on so many levels:

[quote] My music career has been spent encountering people on the internet, like I was on the box. Blogging and tweeting, not about my tour dates and videos, but about our work and our art, about our fears and our hangovers and mistakes. And we see each other. And when we see each other, we want to help each other. [/quote]

So I googled a bit more about that part where people were unhappy about the whole hoopla of her post-Kickstarter campaign, where she asked other musicians to play or open her gigs – where she will give you free beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily (instead of money). And boy, were there lots of opinions on that.

So I dug some more. I found this blog post where she talks about her rationale behind her call, and this quote struck me the most:

[quote] You have to let artists make their own decisions about how they share their talent and time. Especially in this day and age, it’s becoming more and more essential that artists allow each other space to figure out their own systems. The minute YOU make black and white rules about how other artists should value their own art and time, you disempower them. [/quote]

And it’s so true.

There’s a lot of talk about how you should be paid every time you produce work for others. Sure, to a certain extent that is true – we all need to eat and all those Facebook “likes” and tweets don’t exactly fill our stomach. But as artists, there’s always a grey area that you need to decide for yourself whether doing something is worth it in the long run, even if the currency you’re paid in may not be the currency you need right now. I’ve gone against what others think of me – I’ve done work for free because I chose to, and I’m still reaping the rewards from that in so many ways that made me ask “where the heck did that come from?” a few times. I helped out because I genuinely wanted to, and I could spare the time, so I thought why not? And if blogging over the past 5 years have taught me anything, it’s that when you make connections and are generous with your time, ideas and spirit – trust that you’ll be rewarded in return.

But only if you ask.

Let me lay it out for you: if I’m not getting enough money from what I do, it’s my fault because I’m not putting myself out there enough. because I’m not asking or giving enough where it counts. Just because I’m not getting enough moolah from doing what I love, doesn’t mean that I will stop. I’m putting food on the table for myself through other avenues while I figure that out. I don’t – and never will – blame you, dear readers. It’s all on me.

More artists should realize that asking for money isn’t begging (it’s something I need to remind myself sometimes too)  – it’s about making it easy for others to pay you. Amanda got more than what she asked for because she asked for it.

And here’s what I think is missing from a lot of the comments flying out there: that Amanda put herself out there and did what was difficult for many people to do. She held out her hand when many others feel embarrassed about doing it. I believe she wants other people to stand up and do the same. To earn what’s theirs, and to not shy away from putting it out in the world.

Don’t care about what others think – ask for what you need. Hold out your hand.

Now, to demonstrate me walking the talk – and yes, it’s super scary because I’ve never done it before: here’s me holding out my virtual hand: if you like what I do, and if you feel that I’ve helped you in some way, perhaps you’d like to click that little button below and leave me a tip? Or alternatively, head over to the shop and pick something out for you or a friend if you haven’t already?

[UPDATE: Thanks so much to those who generously tipped my jar!]

(don’t worry, I’ll still love you even if you don’t push that button!)


Share with me in the comments section: Have you ever asked for what you need? I’d love to hear if you did and how it went.

Read also: Why I’m not afraid to take your money by Amanda Palmer; and Why I’m Fine With Playing For Amanda Palmer For Free, By S.F. Cellist Unwoman.

Good to Know #11: Holding down multiple jobs

Good to Know #11: Holding down multiple jobs

Good to Know #11: Holding down multiple jobs

Remember a topic that I covered sometime in 2011 – about how I think that artists and illustrators would do themselves a world of good by holding down another job to tide them over if they ever needed money? Well that post garnered lots of opinions, and I loved the sentiments shared by our audience so much that I felt that it belonged in a compendium of its own, and hence it became the title of the 11th issue of the Good to Know zine: Holding down multiple jobs. It’s easily one of my favorites from the series, because it tackles with questions that I’ve struggled with when I first started.

For those who are new to Pikaland, the Good to Know project is a series of zines and PDFs that compile advice + inspiration from artists/illustrators/designers on creativity, business and life. What started as a fun experiment turned into something so much bigger and personal than I’ve ever imagined, all thanks to our very vibrant community!

Do check out issue #11, and here’s the link for the entire Good to Know series!

I work for free (sometimes).

People are surprised to hear that I sometimes give away my time for free.

I’ve done pro bono work for charities and have entered into fun pitches where I worked in collaboration with web designers/programmers. I sketch for people, and have created some illustrations for select projects too.

No, I’m not bonkers. I just feel that the more I give, the more I receive. I do not think that giving my work away devalues what I do at all. Because when I give my work away for free, I think of it as a gift from me, to whomever the recipient may be.

You see, I am extremely lucky to have been on the receiving end of such generosity – either from friends or family members (I’m looking at you, V) – that I feel that the best I can do to give back is by paying it forward. If only to remind the world that the kindness of strangers is not just a myth. And that there is still hope for genuine warmth and generosity in spirit.

But how, you ask, is the best way to navigate these choppy waters?

Here’s a simple guideline that I subconsciously adhere to whenever I try to determine about giving away my work for free, and it’s something I share with those who ask:

1. Do it for yourself
This is top on my list – I give things away to improve. I wrote and sent short little articles to the local newspaper when I was a tween. I even drew pictures and sent them in (some of which, to my delight, got published!). I did it because it seemed fun at the time. While I never had publishers knocking on my door or monetary remunerations, writing helped me articulate things better, and when I drew I just know that it was so much fun.

I participated in a collaboration once, where a team of developers needed a logo to go along with a certain web application. I whipped one up and it was fun to see the whole team getting excited about it! It felt good to be able to contribute to a team environment – especially where I had no programming chops to offer – and I would do it again in an instant.

But here’s the thing. Some people assume that because you’re having fun, it should be reward enough. This is insulting on many levels (yes, they might have pointed out the obvious, but they don’t need to rub it in) but the point is that such behavior is condescending, rude; and should not be tolerated.

2. It’s for a good cause.
I raised my hand to help out a charity organization with a logo for their new fund-raining and awareness campaign. It felt good, I learned quite a few things along the way and it helped me build connections.

3. You like the person.
It’s super simple, this one. Maybe I’m too generous – but if I like someone and we clicked, I’m more inclined to say yes. Maybe I like their idea. Maybe I like their cause. But most probably, it’s because I want to show my support, especially to those who might not be able to afford what I am able to offer right there and then. I’ve also done barters with a few acquaintances, and instead of paying cash, we exchange things or services; which is tremendously helpful if the barter was out of a mutual need!

4. You have a bit of time to spare
Now, this one doesn’t happen very often (the part about me having time to spare), but instead of filling my time worrying about paying the bills, I’d rather have something to busy myself with (but only if point #1, #2 & #3 applies!) so maybe you might want to think about it from this perspective too.

So don’t worry about giving away your time and skills for free. You just might be surprised at what you’ll get back in return, especially when you least expect it.

Share with us: what would it take to give away your time and expertise for free?

{image courtesy of Widgets & Stone, of Brian Wleklinski. Read his interview why he took on a non-paying internship here.}
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