Vocation is not an invitation to disrespect.

I just read this VERY good piece by photographer Tony Sleep about being asked to work for nothing.

Here is a brief bit from it that really resonated with me:

You see I don’t want your stinking “exposure”, I want mutually beneficial, productive relationships with clients. I try to behave with  integrity, honesty and fairness, and I expect clients will do likewise. Exposure is the end of that process, not a means. Similarly with bylines.  I don’t require applause earned by being a sucker. If free matters more than good, ask someone else.

Like most people I work because I need to pay bills and support myself, my work and my family. The fact that I love what I do is why I have spent 40 years persevering whilst going without stuff most people take for granted.

Vocation is not an invitation to disrespect.

The emphasis is mine, but that last sentence REALLY resonated with me.

This is why I have a hard time asking folks to test knit, or sample knit for very small money.  The money for knitters is small because the design fees I receive are INSANELY small, so I knit most of my own samples.

I just finished 2 hats for a friend who’s publishing a book.  She assumed, and I have to admit I didn’t work hard to correct her, that I’d do each for $100.  Each hat was at least 2 days of work, the fee should have been at least $250, but because she’s a friend I caved and said, “Sure!”

This was my own choice, I made it based on a previous relationship and I happened to have two hat patterns that I was toying with at the point that she contacted me.

You see, I can justify it ten ways from Sunday, but the truth is that if the editors, publishers, photographers, models were asked to work on a book or magazine for $5/hour, which is what this worked out to, they’d laugh and walk away.

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15 thoughts on “Vocation is not an invitation to disrespect.

  1. KateinIowa

    Thank you so much for this post. I am a musician, and get so tired of people who expect me to “just play a few songs” without remuneration. I have been practicing my art for more than 55 years.

  2. guernseygal

    You are so right!
    This is why I test knit all my own patterns myself as well.
    I am very fortunate that I have a couple of excellent test knitters that do it for the love and yarn who help me out as well, but I do feel guilty as most of my design work is lace.
    Currently slogging through 2 full sized lace stoles ( one fingering , one laceweight) plus a laceweight lace garment – all for the same book – all for the end of September
    I never seem to get any knitting done for me any more – it is all test knits – one of the perils of becoming successful I suppose :-~

  3. Tammy

    I’ve been enjoying your Iceland pictures and posts, thanks for sharing! I just wanted to chime in here, your post was great & your last line resonated with me.

    “If the editors, publishers, photographers, models were asked to work on a book or magazine for $5/hour, which is what this worked out to, they’d laugh and walk away.”

    It’s so true!!! Not many people calculate the hours that go into a project, even if it’s something you enjoy and do everyday, it has it’s worth.

  4. Alison

    So very, very true. There is a discussion over in Ravelry in Liz Lovick’s Northern Lace group on just this subject.

  5. Helen (of troy)

    I wish every knitter in the world would read this. So many say, OH, its a hobby (but I want to sell what I knit!)

    Hobby knitters who sell hats for $5, scarves for $10, (the price of the yarn) contribute to the idea the the work–the knitting, the crocheting –are worth nothing (only the yarn is valuable)

    I can’t tell you how many people tell me i should KNIT for a living (not design and document) They look at one of my hats, or my many pairs of socks and say “sell them, people would buy them” but when i quote a price of $60, to $90 for a hat, or $150 for a pair of socks.. they are shocked. But you do them in your ‘spare time” they claim. Such ignorance. It’s sad.

  6. Susan (another one)

    My husband came up with this, for relatives, very early on: “If you commission me for free art (or “labor” if they begin by saying they’ll buy the materials), *especially* if you are using it as a gift for another, you can never receive it as a gift. It spoils that whole gift-y feeling.” It works quite well. If you can act a bit like Jack Sparrow, all the better.
    For strangers, again teh Jack Sparrow smile and swash, and whip out a gorgeous biz card, and walk AWAY. For female artists, pretty much the same, oddly enough.Or not.
    If “friends” are asking for free art (Helen(of Troy) is so right) you know what to fill in here…

  7. Pam Burg

    I’m a hairdresser. Need I say more? One of my sister inlaws found out just what it would cost her to go to a salon to get the process done that I did on her hair for no charge. She came carrying flowers for me.
    I get the same request to knit socks. My reply is always: “You couldn’t afford them.”

  8. Donna

    I think expecting friends or family to use their time & talents (especially when they are the person’s livelihood) on your behalf for free is one of the most offensive human behaviors.

    There seems to be this attitude that, if you enjoy your work, you should be happy to do it for nothing for friends or family. I’m not a professional knitter or designer, but, when someone asks me to knit something for them, I offer to teach them to knit.

    And I don’t take advantage of my niece who is a wonderful artist when it comes to cutting hair. I asked how much she wanted to cut my hair & she said that her shop charges $20. But I give her $50 because that is what I paid for haircuts to a local salon (unfortunately my hairdresser switched careers & none of the rest did as good a job.)

    Of course, I do make exceptions. My sister died at age 59 – when her first granddaughter was just 17 months old. She is now 6 & her little sister is 2. They have been fighting over the crocheted baby blanket my sister made for the first. My nephew asked if I would make a blanket for the little one. How could I say no?

    And the hair cutting nieces oldest child just turned 16 & asked for a hand knitted hat for her BD – she & her brothers have been (along with my grands) the most appreciative recipients of hand knits I’ve ever known. And they NEVER expect them.

    But for someone to just dismiss your time & talent the way so many do (I know it is about as common with professional photographers as knitters) is just plain rude & the people who do so should be told that.

  9. Suzanne

    Some people will never understand. I have a cousin who I made a baby blanket for (that is my gift for all cousins who have a kid, an acrylic baby blanket -they love them and I have an easy pattern I follow) and her child chewed it up. She asked me to make another out of the same color and I did.

    I happened to have used Encore instead of Red Heart so it ended up costing me more. The kid is now 11 or so and they came over around the holidays and she had the child begging for another one because the second one got ruined. I refused. My cousin never offered to pay for the yarn and I am now the mean one in the family because I didn’t jump to make the 3rd version.

    I only started doing it as I was unemployed when the first cousin had a kid and I had a stash of baby colored yarn at the time.

  10. Anna

    I agree with you but not with all of your comparisons. My husband is a photographer and he increasingly is expected to work FOR FREE. Free. No hourly rate, not even $5/hour. The number of requests he gets, (if he’s lucky, often his work is stolen), to use his work on a poster, or book or a professional website with just a credit as his ‘payment’ is ridiculous. Everyone who has a camera seems to think they are a photographer; they are wrong. It takes time, skill and talent to take great photographs, just as it takes time, skill and talent to be a great knitter. Both are undervalued.

  11. YarnAddict

    I really agree with your post. I’m fairly new to designing but I’m shocked at how low the pay is. A friend who is a professional translator and an excellent knitter contacted a yarn company about doing translations for them. they sent her two patterns and one was very complicated but not a single word about how much, or even if, they would pay her.

    I then found out from a different yarn company how much they pay their translators and I was shocked at how little it was.

    My knitters are amazing and I pay them as much as i can afford which is not much but I can’t do the volume of work I do without them. I’m so grateful for them.

  12. jeanne

    This has happened to me so many times, I’ve lost count. Unless you are a dear friend and I love you to pieces, you don’t get free knitting from me. A lot of acquaintances have started out claiming to want to learn to knit (and I’m happy to teach them, gratis), but this quickly morphed into, “I really like these [mittens, socks, whatever…], but it would take me too long to make them. Could you knit them for me?” When I explained the charges – cost of yarn and materials, plus my hourly fee – EACH PERSON looked really pissed off, then replied, “Oh, well. I’ll get something at Target.”

    How much of this de-valuing of our work comes from the fact that most knitters are women, and women’s work has historically been under-valued and under-compensated?

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