Here’s the latest card in my affirmation deck – Relaxation. The affirmation for this card is:
I make my well-being
a priority and
a moment without care
One issue that many artists are struggling with is other people copying their work, either for personal use or for resale. It’s a huge problem right now on print on demand sites like Zazzle, where it is easy for thieves to steal or copy your artwork, and then re post it for sale themselves – often right back on Zazzle under their own name! Getting the work removed from these sites is often a long, difficult process. Self employed artists already spend hours a week, often a day, working on promoting themselves on social media, on top of actually creating art, so spending several more hours trying to get stolen artwork taken down is exhausting, and demoralizing.
Often artist hear comments like: “What difference does it make? It’s not like they’re actually stealing from you.” Or: “Why can’t I just save a picture off of the internet I like, and print it myself? I’m not very rich, and it’s not as if you would even know.” These kind of comments are maddening and more than a little depressing. I can’t think of a field outside of the creative arts where anyone would stand for someone else profiting from their hard work, but it seems to be open season on artists.
I thought I’d crunch a few numbers for you, using a seemingly simple example – black and white coloring pages. Adult coloring pages are hugely popular right now, and a lot of artists I know convert their artwork and sell them to supplement their income, often in the form of instant downloads. These let you purchase a computer file of the artwork, which you can print off as many times as you’d like. Unfortunately, this means that these files often get shared, and sometimes re uploaded to the internet were anyone can save them and use them. Why does this matter?
When I create a coloring page, I use Adobe Photoshop. This program costs me $10 a month, a fairly modest investment for the amount of work I accomplish with it. Each page I do takes an average of five hours for me to finish (I work fairly slow). If I were to make minimum wage for my artwork, which is $11.15 where I live, I would make $55.75 for five hours. That would actually be worth it to me, because I love making art, but I don’t get paid for the work I do right away. Instead, I have to do more work to sell it. I would say the time it takes me to resize my work, convert it to .pdf format, upload the file and make a listing on the site I sell it on, and promote my new product on social media, takes me approximately one more hour. I were to get paid for another hour at minimum wage, that makes my total pay for the project $66.90. Since I’m in Canada and I list on Etsy in US dollars, I’ll convert my $66.90 to American funds so I’m comparing apples to apples. That comes to $52.26 US.
When I sell a single page on Etsy, I list it for $2. There is an automatic 20 cent fee just for listing, so that drops the money I make from a single sale to $1.80. If I sell a page, there is a further 3.5% of the selling price charged. This is a pretty piddly amount on a $2 item, only 7 cents. But that brings me down to $1.73.
Now lets take $52.26, the amount I should be paid for the amount of work I put into creating the artwork and putting it up for sale, and divide that by $1.73. That equals 30 individual sales. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is hard for an artist such as myself to promote my work effectively enough in order to get those 30 sales. Assuming I have an advertising budget of zero, which I do right now, I will probably not ever sell enough coloring pages to make minimum wage out of any one design. And even if I get lucky and sell my 30 pages, I’m still making just minimum wage. To go over and above this many sales at this point is above my ability. I just don’t have the social media presence yet to do that, or the advertising budget.
And let’s assume that the first person who does buy that page off of me decides to share it. Coloring these days is hugely popular, with massive online groups on social media that share their work. Every person that shares one of my artworks is one less sale for me. If they post it on a site like Pinterest, it may get share hundreds of times, and there isn’t really anything I can do about that. I’m not greedy, I’m not getting rich over here, I’m just hoping that some day I will get fairly compensated for my work. As do most artist I know. Fortunately I have not had the unpleasant experience of being attacked online for insisting that others do not steal from me, but I know plenty of artists who have. I’ve seen them be called greedy simply for trying to protect the hard work they put into their artwork. It just isn’t right.
The problem is even worse on print on demand sites like Zazzle. If I upload my artwork, I can put it on a wide variety of items. Usually the commission I make from these items is quite small – for example around $2 for a tshirt. Zazzle is a huge marketplace with millions of items, so the chances of someone even stumbling across my art on the site is minutely small. There are some sellers there who steal artwork and then flood the website with counterfeit products, making the chances of someone finding a stolen design easier. If that’s not bad enough, usually the artwork is lifted off Zazzle itself so the image quality is not good, meaning the person who buys a knock off of my design gets an inferior item with a poor image quality. That means if they ever do find my work again, they probably won’t buy it because they think they will end up with another poor quality picture. Not only has that person stolen my sale, they’ve also dented my reputation as an artist. And sites like Zazzle don’t make it easy for you to get the stolen artwork taken down. I know some artists who spend hours a week sending take down notices to a variety of websites. It’s frustrating, time consuming, and demoralizing.
So when you think stealing artwork isn’t going to hurt anyone, please keep in mind some of these points. My artwork is a labor of love that costs me hours a day, above and beyond my “regular” full time office job. I can’t make a living off my art yet – but I’m hopeful I will one day. If you buy directly from an artist, you are supporting someone’s hard work and encouraging them to keep creating. If you love artwork as much as I do, you can see how important that is.
If you’d like to support my work, please check out my Etsy page, where you an find my coloring pages and more!
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