Updated: Mar 15, 2021

life coach Eddy Smits in striped shirt

Creatives and artists often are asked to donate artwork or perform for free for charity.

In my 25-year long artist career, I got this question many times every year.

First of all, I want to express that I am all in favor of charity. I think you can never do enough of helping people though as an artist it is a tricky thing!

Often organizations attract you by saying you will get a lot of exposure or you will certainly get some bookings out of your performance.

Let me start by stating that this is mostly not the case.

First of all the organization of a charity hasn’t got a clue how you get your gigs and above all

the majority of the attendees aren’t really interested in your performance or art and won’t pay attention.

They are there to support their charity and will not look at your art or won’t listen to your music.

I know this sounds harsh, but it is the honest truth. The only thing you will get out of it is a lot of frustration. If you are happy with a thank you from the organization, that’s nice, but with a thank you, you won’t be able to do some groceries the next day, right?

So how can you address these questions?

I have a suggestion on how to tackle it.

Try this principle.

Let’s suppose for arguments sake your artwork of performance costs 2000 euro. Would you donate 2000 euro for that charity?

If the answer is yes, then by all means go and perform for free!

Here are a few things you can do. If you are a band or a performer, you can say that you will do one free gig a year. You can discuss amongst the members of the band which one is your favorite charity and play for free.

If you make artwork, you can give a coupon for let say 200 euro. People can use it to get a 200 euro discount when they buy your art. This way you give a nice price and you don’t depreciate the value of your artwork.

These are some ideas but let me explore the main reason why you shouldn't do charity for free.

Doing too much for free will devaluate your work. It is in human nature only to value things that cost money. When you give away things for free, people will not appreciate it. As an artist, you have to fight this your whole career. People assume that an artist can do things for free. They hardly ever take you seriously.

So again, if you want to donate something, give money!

Another thing is that once you start giving things for free, other organizations will contact you and ask the same and you will get a bad name if you don’t give something to all of them, which is strange because your intention of giving was really good.

Trust me on this, if you want to live off your art and performances, be really aware of what you give away for free.

In my opinion, the only people you give away art or a performance for free is for people who value your work for what it’s worth.

You have to be absolutely sure about that and otherwise don’t do it. Giving away things for free on the right people will help you sell. Giving it to the wrong people will have a counter effect.

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