The Simple Dollar Morning Roundup: If You’re An Artist, Pay Attention!

Are you a graphic design artist? Want to get some nice exposure on a popular website? I’m offering you a great opportunity to get some very long-term exposure for your work. But first, my daily roundup of links.

The Declining Value Of The MBA I think an MBA still has significant value, but its value is different than it was, say, fifteen years ago. (@ consumerism commentary)

12 Ways To Beat Inflation: Don’t Let Rising Prices Get You Down A house is a great hedge against inflation if you buy one with a fixed-rate mortgage. A house (under normal conditions) grows in value parallel to inflation, while your home loan stays at the same dollar amount. (@ the digerati life)

Checking Your House For Leaks One of the big things that causes heat loss in the winter is leaky windows. Here’s how to find leaks really easily – once you find them, it’s easy to fix it with a bit of caulk. (@ we’re in debt)

The Simple Dollar Retro: Ten Books That Changed My Life A while back, I wrote a series about ten books that deeply affected me and really changed my life – here’s a summary of what I wrote.

So what about that art? What I want is some incidental art. I am primarily looking for unique pieces that are around 225 pixels in width, no more than 250, and anywhere from 150 to 500 pixels high. Please send these in jpeg format. These will be used regularly on posts on The Simple Dollar. You can use whatever artistic tricks you like, from original art to photography to Photoshop trickery, as long as the work is your own original work.

I am looking for five pieces from each artist, and the ones I accept are entirely at my discretion. I will be fairly picky, so please send me quality work. I might accept some and reject others, so you might want to send me more than five.

What exactly do I want? I’m leaving this wide open. Mostly what I’m looking for are things that are of quality and things that are visually intriguing withhout dominating text that might be near it. I like financial themes, but food themes and family themes are also strongly appropriate.

By sending them to me, you’re giving me unlimited rights to use them as I see fit on The Simple Dollar. I will not use any of the art on any other website; if you see them used elsewhere, feel free to call them on it, because likely they stole the art.

What do you get out of this? If you give me five pieces that I decide to use in semi-regular rotation, you’ll get the following:

* I’m going to start a new section on the sidebar called “The Simple Dollar Artists” Under that heading, you’ll get your name listed. This section will appear on every page on The Simple Dollar.
* Your name will be hyperlinked to your professional website.
* Next to your name, I’ll also include a small link so that visitors can see the pieces you contributed to The Simple Dollar.

The Simple Dollar receives almost a million unique visitors per month and is growing steadily. That’s significant exposure for your art.

Interested? Here’s how to contact me.

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  1. Bobby says:

    As husband to a professional graphic designer, your plea for free graphic design work is way off mark. The above link is a copy of a post from craigs list and has some good commentary from real designers.


    It is not a “great opportunity” for an artist to have his work seen on your car/’zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a “great opportunity” for YOU to have their work there.

    The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their “portfolio”. They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

  2. ar says:

    as they say on craig’s list (where people try to pull stuff like this all the time): exposure is for nudists.

    c’mon trent, i thought you were better than this. in your side job, would you ever work for free for “exposure”? answer honestly.

    if you want quality art for your site, pay for it! that way you’d REALLY be helping whichever “starving artist” you choose.

  3. Great idea to add some pizazz to your site with graphics. From your perspective this is probably a pretty good trade. I’m sure you’ve got good intentions.

    But here is why no professional artist/designer will (or should) take you up on your offer.

    An offer like this is called working “on spec”. Here is an excellent, quick article on the matter:

    Here’s another perspective:

    My advice to you? I would search stock photography and illustration sites. Find items you like and pay for it… often the prices are very, very reasonable. You get what you like and the creative professional gets paid.

    Remember: creative people are business people, too. We prefer cash to credit.

    Thanks for your informative blog.
    Millionaire Artist

  4. Anna says:

    I’m a graphic designer and this sounds like a neat opportunity. Is there a deadline for submitting pieces?

  5. Laura says:

    I love your retro article. I love to look at new books and I’ll be sure to check out C.S. Lewis.

  6. Trent says:

    I enjoy making my own art for The Simple Dollar – I’m not seeking art because I need it in any way. I just know the site has a wide audience. I was merely offering the exposure to any artist, whether professional or aspiring, to get some exposure to a wide audience. I’m kind of scratching my head as to what’s wrong with that.

  7. Trent says:

    And, yes, I have worked for free for exposure. My MSN articles were free in exchange for link exposure for The Simple Dollar.

  8. Artist says:

    Your site is successful enough that you should pay them. Exposure is not enough for an artist. Cheap.

  9. ar says:

    The side job I was asking about was your computer consulting business. Have you done that for free for “exposure”?

    Point taken but The Simple Dollar is a hobby that you started doing for free that turned into something more. It’s totally different when what’s being asked of you is actually your livelihood and chosen profession.

    If you haven’t already, you should really sit down and read that link the first person posted. Spot on.

  10. Anna says:

    Working free for exposure isn’t neccessarily something a graphic designer would never do. In my case, I’m still reletively early in my career, and I’ve been looking for ways to branch out into new and different types of design. A big draw for me here is that it’s something I can put in my portfolio/resume, and for someone without a lot of experience, every little bit helps.

    But mostly I just look at it as fun. Because the audience of TSD probably doesn’t include a lot of people in the entertainment industry (where I’d like to work), I don’t think that a link to my site will neccessarily be the thing that gets me my next great job. However, it’d be fun for me to see my work on a site that I visit often, and to know that a lot of other people are seeing and enjoying my work. I’m not sure I’ll end up submitting anything, but if time permits and inspiration strikes, I just might.

  11. Mitch says:

    IANA professional artist, but demanding 5+ custom (size, topic, and taste–IIRC you tend to post romantic/pastoral types of pictures) pieces to even have them be considered sounds like a pretty steep request. That’s many hours of work (billable hours) that will have been wasted (unless artist completely lucks into some other situation where the pieces can be sold) if you don’t take them. At least people who do pro bono work know their work is going to be used. Maybe some other enlistment structure could tip the balance the other way for those who might like to participate?

  12. Mitch says:

    For example, make it more at the level of the skilled hobbyist who might do it for kicks instead of primarily the professional freelancer (implied by meeting those kinds of tight specifications and having a portfolio to advertise).

  13. Bobby says:

    You’re asking for several hours of work from a person for custom made graphics, with unlimited rights to said graphics, to use on a blog you use to make money and offer “exposure” for the artist.

    If the exposure was placement in a design trade journal, I’d see no problem. That would be similar to your MSN articles. But on a site with probably very few potential future customers, the exposure is just not worth it.

    You wouldn’t think of offering ‘exposure’ to a plumber you hired to fix a leaky faucet. He’d laugh at you and hang up. You would have to pay him.

    Didn’t you just have a post a few days ago saying there are two things you can do to help your finances? Spend less or make more? And now you’re telling people who have a chance to make more by working freelance, you want their work for free?

  14. RK says:

    It’s not that there is an issue per se with art in exchange for exposure, but it’s a controversial topic in graphic/artist circles – as you can (and probably will continue to) tell with the responses received.

    From what I’ve seen, it’s something of a well-discussed topic in the circles of People Trying To Make A Living Off Art, if you’re not sure why the response you’re receiving, reading up on a few of those essays should clear it up.

  15. Veronica says:

    It’s one thing to ask for this for fun, but please don’t let yourself believe that you’re offering anything of value to a graphic designer/illustrator by asking for free spot art. “Exposure” does not pay the rent.

    You will definitely find people willing to take you up on it, and that’s their choice, but the bottom line is people deserve to be paid for work, especially for skilled work.

  16. Debora says:

    Trent, I think if you had offered a more concrete exchange of services you would have had a different reaction here. For example, my hairdresser cuts my hair in exchange for portraits I take of her kids.

    Offering professional artists exposure as payment is really asking them to work for free, on the off-chance there ‘might’ be some work for them from someone else in the future. Not very enticing.

    As a professional artist, I have worked for free, but only when initiated by myself (or for a registered charity). Being asked to work for free is always irritating.

  17. DJ says:

    This crosses the line from “frugal” to “cheap.”

    This saves you money, Trent, but in the process you’re ripping others off. That is cheap territory.

  18. Anna says:

    After reading this again, I think I misunderstood something before. Are you saying that any artist who wants to participate must submit a minimum of five pieces? So, if I had the time and/or inspiration and/or inclination for only one or two pieces, you won’t use them?

    If that’s the case, it’s worth my time. It’s one thing to do a piece or two for fun, but each piece takes a considerable amount of time. The time it would take for me to do five (or more, as you suggested) for exposure that’s not targeted at the audience I’m interested in advertising to is not a good exchange.

  19. Beth says:

    I think people can only be ripped off if his offer doesn’t make sense for them, but they proceed anyway. It’s not like Trent solicited submissions and then said it would be unpaid. I think it’s good to point out why some artists may choose not to submit art, but I don’t think anyone needs to attack the offer.

    And perhaps an artist could submit some art and say its use would be conditional on some barter, such as a three-hour financial consultation (that would be opinion only as Trent isn’t a licensed advisor).

  20. Anna says:

    In my last comment I meant to say “it’s *not* worth my time” in the 2nd paragraph. Sorry for the typo.

  21. Trent says:

    I am honestly completely baffled by the response. I really don’t even want the images – I was mostly offering a free way for graphic artists to get exposure. There’s no requirement for any graphic artist to take it, it’s just an opportunity available to them if they want it. I fail to see how that makes me evil or a rip-off artist – I’m not charging a thing and I’m giving them free bandwidth and exposure for their work.

  22. Trent says:

    And, yes, I’ve done free computer consultation as well in an effort to expand my business – and it worked well.

  23. illo says:

    A better way of approaching this might have been:

    1. asking artists to send a link to their portfolio or a couple of sample pics (done on other jobs, no extra time on their part required.)

    2. choosing the artists, then going over the job with them and agreeing with them how to compensate for their troubles, including everything from sketches to finished work.

    As a professional illustrator (and a freelancer/enterpreneur, that’s why I read your site) I can assure you we get asked to do something for free daily. There is always a relative/friend wanting you to draw something nice on their wedding program, just a little help setting up their website etc. and it gets a bit tired…

  24. blackliquorish says:

    Here’s why “exposure” isn’t worth anything:
    Trent wants to jazz up his site with graphics. He’s not hiring any of the designers that he’s been “exposed to” in probably 10+ years of web-surfing. If exposure was worth a damn, someone would be getting HIRED to fill this position.

  25. Brad says:

    Hi Trent,

    Please tell your audience that I was probably the one that planted the seed here. When I contacted you the other day with an offer to create a small icon for you, say about once a month in exchange for a link to my professional website, the offer was made from the vantage point of a 30-year professional who enjoys your site immensely.

    I think you kind of warped my offer into something completey different with which I have to disagree. The Graphic Artists Guild of America does not support work on spec. That isn’t what I was offering you. It was not meant to launch a widecast call for free art. That said, I still think your site provides much value and will continue to check in. But please, get up to speed on artist’s rights. The Graphic Artists Guild is a great place to start:

  26. Mitch says:

    Trent, the MSN thing, as I recall, would be more akin to you finding someone with a portfolio you like and that likes to do work similar types of work with people similar to your audience. MSN presumably knew they would like your work and that it would fit with what they were doing, and you could be pretty sure it would immediately raise your profile since their audience is similar to yours, so it was much more of a “sure bet” for both parties. All exposure is not equal, and uncertain opportunities for exposure are not necessarily worthwhile. I don’t think anyone is claiming you are “evil,” but I definitely sense that they think you are being naive.

  27. Tyler K says:

    Working for exposure is something graphic designers are offered A LOT and it is something they try to avoid. I think if you would have asked if anyone was interested you probably wouldn’t have had quite such a negative response.

    I am considering creating some images because I’ve learned quite a bit from this site and would like to give something back.

  28. Delphina says:

    A graphic designer’s whole job is about standing out and self-promotion. If you’re an established (and skilled) designer, you do not need to do free work to drum up clients. The work you have serves as proof that you can do the job, and clients hire you based on that.

    And if you’re *not* an established designer, it’s a horrible way to get started. When you establish a precedent that you’re willing to do work with no contract for ‘exposure’, people come to expect that from not only you, but other designers. And if you get into the habit of working like that, you have no way to protect yourself if someone decides to not pay you for your work.

    Maybe photography or illustration is different because you can sell an unlimited number of prints, but you can’t typically resell a design. It’s your time, and you’re free to invest it any way you choose. But I strongly encourage new designers to put it toward something portfolio-enriching AND compensating.

  29. blackliquorish says:

    An aside to Delphina: I don’t know about illustrators, but fine art photographers do limit the number of prints they make, for the same reason — value retention. If I’m selling a print to a buyer for $1000, the only reason it holds/increases its value is because I’m not running home and spitting out 100 more copies.

    Stock photography is a little different because people are paying a license fee to use the image, they’re not purchasing a physical art object, of which a limited number exist.

  30. Doug says:

    It’s funny that everybody keeps saying that this site wouldn’t provide the right exposure for “professional artists”, but there sure are alot of you that have responded to Trent’s request. Maybe this audience is more diverse than than you think it is. I agree with you Trent – I think its a great idea and I’m puzzled why its getting such a negative reaction. Someone will cut through the entitlement babel and will offer to help.

  31. blackliquorish says:

    Doug — would you let an artist tell you how to run YOUR business? What makes you think you know anything about best business practices for us?

  32. Anna says:

    @Doug Yes, there have been a few professional artists replying to this thread, but there haven’t been any potential clients, from what I’ve seen. Professional artists don’t need exposure to other professional artists, they need exposure to potential clients, and there don’t seem to be a lot of those on this site.

    @Trent I certainly don’t think you’re evil or that you’re trying to rip people off, and I doubt that the other posters here think that either. I think you genuinely wanted to offer a situation that would be mutually benefitial; you just placed a much higher value on “exposure” than most designers would.

  33. Brad says:

    And to clarify, when I made my offer of providing a small icon every month or so, I had no illusions that I would be getting calls for work from the readers of this site. It was more of a token offered to someone whose work I like and find helpful.

    I have numerous points of exposure on the web, including my own website, online portfolio sites, sites for my stock art.

    I wouldn’t recommend someone entering what is in essence a competition for the prize of exposure on this particular site. I can look at illustrator and designer sites elsewhere all day if I want. This isn’t where I would go to find an illustrator or designer. One’s promotional efforts would be better spent elsewhere.

    Still luv ya though, T. :-)

  34. Trent says:

    The troubling thing to me is that everyone is assuming that I want free art. I don’t want free art – I’d rather make it myself.

  35. Mitch says:

    Right, at 9:58 you said you don’t *need* the art. But the main post said strong and clear “I want,” “I am looking for,” etc. Not at all the same as, “hey, I’d could probably be willing to consider including TSD fan art with proper attribution in my posts as an adjunct to my own work.”

  36. Mitch says:

    Truly, there are many, many of us who have derived pleasure from this site and some would like to do more than just participate in the commenting community. Ask what people might like to do. You might be surprised.

  37. blackliquorish says:

    These dissenting opinions aren’t personal attacks. It’s a FINANCIAL blog. Why shouldn’t artists discuss the relevant FINANCIAL issues concerning working on spec? Real working artists happen to feel that “exposure” isn’t worth anything, so doing work in exchange for it (especially in a contest situation when exposure isn’t even guaranteed) is akin to working for free.

  38. Brad says:

    I think this is a case of Left Brain not understanding Right Brain. :-)

    Please carry on. This is a great discussion!

  39. Trent says:

    Mitch: I’m not going to put random art on The Simple Dollar – all I was doing is specifying the stuff I would include. You’re basically saying that I shouldn’t have made the offer unless I’d be willing to post whatever was tossed at me?

  40. Trent says:

    I’m mostly disturbed by the allusion by many of the artistic folks posting here that I should pay for the art.

  41. blackliquorish says:

    The troubling thing to me is that everyone is assuming that I want free art.

    I’m mostly disturbed by the allusion by many of the artistic folks posting here that I should pay for the art.

    Which is it?

  42. Veronica says:

    Trent(4:10): It’s a matter of value. What you’re asking for is of disproportionately higher value than what you’re offering in return. I’ll say it in no uncertain terms- you should pay for the art, be that in cash-money, or in some sort of equally agreed upon trade where both parties feel as if they’re getting equal value. What we artistic folks are saying is that exposure on the site doesn’t meet the requirement of being an equal trade. Additionally, we get this sort of thing a lot.

    I totally get that it wasn’t your intention, but your proposal is just about as textbook an example of unethical practice as it gets. As in, it would be unethical to accept.

  43. Veronica says:

    Wait, let me clarify that- it’s unethical to accept under the terms you present here.

    I mean to say, know that “exposure” has no value. Also, know that you are offering us valuable content in exchange for a little adspace, and so I can see a situation where artists would be willing to do you free work in a sort of tipjar capacity. Which makes you more the recipient of a gift, and it would just be impolite to make specific requests. Thought I’d throw that out there, though, because there’s probably more than one way to make this work without a) insulting anybody, and b) under- or over-valuing anybody’s contribution.

  44. Veronica says:

    or c) making you pay anybody cash-money!

    I’m really done with that comment now.

  45. Johanna says:

    I’m not an artist, but the way I see it, the problem is not asking for artists to donate their art to the site. You’re free to ask, and they’re free to say “Hell no.” The offensive part, and the part that would offend me if you were asking for donations of skills that I have, is the implication that you’re doing them a favor by giving them this opportunity for “exposure.”

  46. Jillian says:

    Wow, there sure are a lot of angry artists reading your blog. Maybe you should be soliciting ads for art supplies instead?

  47. blackliquorish says:

    We must all be in debt because no one’s willing to pay us for our time. ;)

  48. Mitch says:

    Nope, not all random art. That’s why I said consider–you’d consider art people did. Difference between *seeking out free art* which is strongly implied in original post and *considering things people might want to contribute* which is what you seem to want upon numerous clarifications.

    Someone else please respond more coherently–I have labyrinthitis acting up right now–

  49. Mitch says:

    I think, Trent, that you know what you mean, but it is not clear to anyone else. Let me offer a rough translation and maybe you’ll see why people are concerned:

    If You’re A PF Blogger, Pay Attention!

    Are you a PF blogger? Want to get some nice exposure at a popular event? I’m offering you a great opportunity to get some very long-term exposure for your work.

    So what about that blogging? What I want five articles about medieval usury practices for the Society for Creative Anachronism. I am primarily looking for articles about 750 to 1000 words long. These will be used as background readings for our SCA “Currency and You” course at our annual war.

    I am looking for five pieces from each blogger, and the ones I accept are entirely at my discretion. I will be fairly picky, so please send me quality work. I might accept some and reject others, so you might want to send me more than five.

    What exactly do I want? I’m leaving this wide open. Mostly what I’m looking for are things that are of quality and things that are intellectually intriguing without being too difficult to read (fifth grade education level). I like Spain best, but Germany is also strongly appropriate.

    By sending them to me, you’re giving me unlimited rights to use them as I see fit only at this annual SCA event.

    What do you get out of this? If you give me five pieces that I decide to use every year, you’ll get the following:

    * I’m going to start a new section in the program called “The Usury Experts” Under that heading, you’ll get your name listed. This section will appear every time we hold the course.
    * Your website url will also be listed.
    * Your name will be included on each article.

    Our annual war receives almost ten thousand visitors each year and is growing steadily. That’s significant exposure for you.

  50. Lazy Man says:

    I’m scratching my head on this one too Trent. Website Designers create WordPress themes and often release them for free to get the links back and exposure. Lawyers also often for pro-bono for highly public cases to create a name for themselves. I fail to see how this is different.

    Personally having a link on a site such as The Simple Dollar is a tremendous value (I have one, I know). I’m half thinking I should contract out a graphic artist, acquire the rights for some art that would qualify and transfer to Trent for exposure to my site. In fact, Trent let me know, I’m happy to set this arrangement up. As far as I can tell it’s win-win-win.

  51. Trent says:

    Interesting – Lazy Man apparently puts a vastly higher value on the exposure that The Simple Dollar can provide than the graphic artists do.

  52. Daizy says:

    I am not a graphic artist but I really enjoy your site and if I could think of something to contribute, I would, just to be a part of it.

  53. I do have some graphic sources and I’ll probably let them know about your interest in art pieces. :)

  54. Alyssa says:

    “Interesting – Lazy Man apparently puts a vastly higher value on the exposure that The Simple Dollar can provide than the graphic artists do.”

    Hmmm… maybe because your customer bases are similar?

    “I’m mostly disturbed by the allusion by many of the artistic folks posting here that I should pay for the art.”

    Seriously? You are disturbed you should pay for a product you want?

    Your inability to take criticism is seriously turning me off from your site.

  55. Anna says:

    Trent, Lazy Man has a PF blog. His exposure from you is bringing PF blog readers to his PF blog.

    Designers, on the other hand, don’t need PF blog readers to come to their site. They need potential clients to come to their site. There doesn’t seem to be much overlap between these two groups of people.

    Therefore, Lazy Man stands to gain a lot more from exposure on your site than a designer would. That is why the exposure has more value to him.

  56. Wow, many of you guys are reacting almost as if Trent killed a puppy or something. If you don’t like his offer (for whatever reason) then don’t take him up on it.

  57. Debora says:

    Trent, great debate. Here’s another way of looking at it: because of the visual nature of artists’ work, most any job we do includes exposure as well as payment. Why would I work for exposure alone when other sources will pay me AND provide exposure?

    Also, working for free to build up a side business is quite different from asking professionals to do their day-to-day work without financial compensation. Would you go to your regular job tomorrow if your boss told you you wouldn’t get financial compensation for your contributions?

    I sincerely hope you (and others) understand this, because it would put an end to the “starving artist.”

  58. blackliquorish says:

    Interesting – Lazy Man apparently puts a vastly higher value on the exposure that The Simple Dollar can provide than the graphic artists do.

    Lazy Man also puts a higher value on the work of artists. He said he’d contract out some art. That means he’s paying for it.

    Listen, if you want an artist to do you a favor and make graphics for you, ask for a favor. And if you want to write an article about financial opportunities for artists, do some research on the real economics of the way artists make a living. It’s clear from your responses here that you’re just making assumptions.

  59. Mitch says:

    5c nickel, it’s just shocking to some of us that Trent doesn’t see how unethical this sounds. It’s like your health food store advertising that it promotes local businesses, then when SAP Maven walks in with her business card to post on the bulletin board finds out that she has to pay the store $500 for a chance at a coin toss, and if the coin comes up heads she can post her card. The benefits are likely to be out of proportion. Much different thing if SAP Maven offers health food store $500 just because she loves the quinoa they stock.

  60. Delphina says:

    @ fivecentnickel

    Working for spec is an incredibly prevalent and serious issue for artists; it is one of the most damaging things to happen to the entire internet-based graphic design industry, if not the most. It happens all the time when people want cheap art and don’t have any working knowledge of how a artist needs to run a business. So yeah, it’s a sore spot, and one all us disgruntled art-folk are pointing out loudly so that (A) new artists don’t start working that way and (B) clients stop expecting it from us.

    When you talk about exposure for writing articles for MSN or putting another financial blog’s link on your site, you’re talking about exposure that’s reaching its intended target audience. I’m sure it’s worked out great for you, but as every artist has said (and surprise surprise, the people who disagree are not artists!), exposure on a financial blog is worthless because it’s the wrong audience for artists.

    That said, there’s nothing wrong with donating your services if you’ve got nothing better to do and you really love this blog. But you have to think of a donation of art exactly like a donation of money, because that’s basically what we’re giving up to provide you with art instead of a paying client. So no, you don’t get to determine how much or when or what denomination. As a requester of a donation, you get to say, “it’d be nice if I had…” and “Thank you” if anyone gives you anything at all.

  61. Trent says:

    Another problem I have is that everyone assumes the sidebar links have no value at all, which is basically every artist here demanding cash completely disrespecting my site. The reason Lazy Man is offering to pay for the art in exchange for more exposure is because the sidebar links have cash value.

    What I have been told here by every artist is that The Simple Dollar has no value, which is incredibly insulting – I’ve never said that their art has no value. Several artists here are claiming to be insulted by this offer. The implication of that insult is that my site is worthless.

    I will repeat for the third time: doing this art is not a favor for me. I don’t even want the art. I offered this because I knew some of my readers were artists and I believed they would like to participate and would enjoy the exposure. It is an optional thing.

    The response from those artists could have been “Thanks, but I’m not interested.” Instead, it was, “Ha! Your site is worthless!”

  62. Trent says:

    “Seriously? You are disturbed you should pay for a product you want?”

    Again, I don’t want the art. I was offering a free chance for artists to show off their work on a popular site.

  63. DJ says:

    No one said your site was worthless, just that its audience isn’t going to serve the artists’ needs.

  64. Trent says:

    DJ: that amount of linkage – more than 2000 links – is serviced by tens of thousands of people a day coming in via Google. Never mind the regular readers. A fair number of those will be people coming from a background who would be interested in the art.

    Second, having 2000+ links to a portfolio on a separate domain, for Google’s purposes, means that portfolio will show up a lot higher for search terms like “artist,” “graphic design,” or one’s name.

    It truly does not matter whether The Simple Dollar’s topic is directly connected to the field or not.

  65. Sarah says:

    Regardless of how many links there are to Google, people usually don’t Google to find a graphic artist. It’s done through networking because there are way too many to weed through online. That’s why your offer for exposure isn’t really a great one– no one is going to come here for ideas about graphic design and no one is going to Google a grapic artist. If it was paid work, however, then it might be worth people’s time, but for all the billable hours going into making the icons that you might use, it’s not.

    I’d also have to agree with Alyssa– you take criticism terribly.

  66. Brad says:

    “What I have been told here by every artist is that The Simple Dollar has no value.”

    Trent, go back and read these comments again. Many of the posts (mine included) are mention how valuable your content is. It’s just not very valuable as a promotional tool for illustrators and designers. Please grasp that distinction.

  67. guinness416 says:

    Your readers have given you actionable suggestions – use a hobbyist rather than a pro, use the people who said they’d do it for free in appreciation of the site, contract it out to a moneyblogger to whom the links will be useful, etc etc.

    Trent, your pre-prepared writing and info is great, but you seem to be very defensive when the comments don’t go your way, and it’s really unnecessary. I’m sure you don’t mean to come off that way, but you should be gracious to your readers, who’ve come through here with some well-written posts with good links dealing with their field of expertise. *The comments alone could be the basis of a great, unique future post*. Your response to Lazyman is coming off as saying “Ha! See! A moneyblogger agrees with me so the other 40-something comments are wrong!”

    I’m one of the readers who follows through links to Lazyman and other blogs, and have probably come here via his site too. Of course there’s value to a moneyblogger in being linked by a moneyblog. But really, there is a 0% chance that I’d visit an art site from here, and the artists above know that.

  68. Delphina says:

    Of course your site’s not worthless. It’s a great resource for artists to manage the little money they make, and you write in a fantastic, non-bombastic way that feels more human than I had thought finance could be.

    However, aside from the indirect following of said advice, nothing your site can do for us can make us money. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and no reason to take it personally. But you should definitely know that this is the case with your site and many other sites. For many businesses, any traffic is good traffic, because traffic directly relates to conversion, and the more conversion, the better. It’s simply not true for artists, that’s all.

  69. Johanna says:

    “I’ve never said that their art has no value.”

    Actually, by asking that they give it to you without being paid anything in return, and suggesting that this is a good deal for them, that’s sort of exactly what you’re saying.

  70. elisa says:

    This is such a great string of comments from an awareness standpoint. I wholeheartedly agree with all of the above artists who found that what you were asking for to be completely and totally insulting and downright wrong on so many levels. You clearly didn’t think you were doing anything wrong, and that’s a big part of the problem here. Just two days ago I had a similar dealing with a local prospective client looking for design work on spec. I declined and then sent them a few of the same links that were posted here. We as designers need to educate people on the ethical treatment we deserve. It’s an uphill battle, but let’s hope that this will reach at least a few people and open their eyes to what professional designers and artists face all the time – people not valuing our work. And on top of that thinking something is such a great opportunity for us when it’s really only benefiting them.

  71. Trent says:

    Johanna: but I am offering to pay them in return, with a link that has monetary value. They just don’t recognize value in my offer.

  72. Trent says:

    As for the defensiveness, if I was truly being defensive, I would delete comments that are derogatory to me, or at the least ignore them. Instead, I try to debate and discuss them – I think it’s reasonable and fair to talk about things.

  73. Bryan says:

    Hey Trent,

    I am a long time reader but this is my first time commenting. I just wanted to jump into this bloodbath to say a couple of things. I completely understand where Trent is coming from. Trent runs a successful finance blog with thousands of daily readers, and a million unique hits a month. That is a lot of traffic to be driven to any site, even a professional artist. If you don’t see the value in such exposure, or the perceived value isn’t enough for you, that is completely fine. But to essentially state that Trent is cheap, or ripping people off is unreasonable. For one thing, who said you had to be a professional artist? An amateur artist with an art blog could submit a couple of pieces of work and get some exposure, a college student could get their feet wet and get a nice reference or work experience for their resume, or a high school student could submit some work and have something to talk about for his college applications, or to put on his own resume. If you are dealing with potential clients, saying that you had some art used for a popular website is hardly a bad thing, or something with no value. Trent himself, as have many of us who have our own side businesses, has done work for “free” before to get exposure. This isn’t doing a huge project for a company to get a little sign or name put on a report that no one will read. This is a little project, that should be fun, that has the potential to drive thousands of people to your site. The fact is that there are many people for whom this is a great opportunity, and if you aren’t one of them, that is fine. But to come onto Trent’s site and go off about how he is cheap, ripping off artists, and all around being a jerk, that’s just unnecessary. Many of the commenter’s posts have been extremely insulting to Trent, and his, what I feel, generous offer.

    While Trent was not offering direct monetary compensation for your work, he was offering something with extremely high value. Enough value I would add, that Lazy Man, who runs his own successful finance blog, is toying with the idea of HIRING a professional artist just so that he could submit the work and get more exposure to his site. The pieces of art that he was asking for is small, measured in pixels. I know offhand several people who would do such a thing just for FUN, and instead many people are taking offense to it. If you don’t feel that creating several, or even one, 500 pixel pieces for a site you enjoy, and for exposure is worth it, then don’t. But don’t come onto Trent’s site and BERATE him for his offer. As he even stated, he doesn’t even WANT the work, he was offering a valuable commodity to a profession which it appears that he respects and wants to help out. As far as I am concerned, Trent was essentially offering out a helping hand in the form of traffic. If you really don’t think what Trent is offering is worth it, then just say “hey it’s a nice offer, but maybe you should think of this perspective Trent.” . And just as a quick aside, most people aren’t going to check your links, if you want Trent to understand why this “free” work is a bad idea, state it in your post, don’t throw up links no one is going to look at.

    And to the commenter who remarked that Trent cant take criticism, are you serious? As far as I know Trent has not removed any dissenting comments, in fact he has won praise for leaving negative comments on his site and letting people have discussions how they want, just look at the post he made about ways to cut expenses out of your budget, and included pets, YIKES that was a brawl. If you think you are outraged about trent “ripping off” artists, you would be shocked at the people who seemed like they wanted throw Trent in front of a bus for insinuating that they ditch the golden retriever so that they could help get out of credit card debt.

  74. Johanna says:

    Trent: So why do you know better than they do what the value is of a link to their sites?

  75. Trent says:

    Here’s the deal: I offered 2,000+ links from my PR 5-6 website for free to artists. It is common for such links to sell for prices like $20 a month on websites where the topic is completely unrelated to the link, like artists would be here on The Simple Dollar. Why do they sell? These links help with Google search results – when someone searches on a term in Google, the top result is there because there are a lot of links to it. Thus, the link would cause your site to show up a lot more in Google searches for things like “logo design” or whatever your portfolio is trying to sell.

    The artists tell me that this offer has no value to them. What do I conclude from that if I don’t conclude that they’re saying The Simple Dollar has no value?

  76. Brad says:


    I have links to my work spread all over the internet. I know what works and what doesn’t for my paricular field. I have no idea what would work for financial services.

    If anything, we’d get inquires from people who figure we do free work. It simply devalues what we do. I’ve been a freelance illustrator for thirty years and I do have this kind of figured out by now.

    And I also value your willingness to allow this discussion to proceed on your blog. Thank you!


  77. Trent says:

    “Trent: So why do you know better than they do what the value is of a link to their sites?”

    I know because I can sell links to completely unrelated sites for $20 a month, as mentioned above. The 2,000+ links I can give will directly help them with Google search results – when someone searches for “graphic art,” their name will show up higher. I basically offered those same links for free to the artists and was told that it has no value and that I was somehow ripping them off. That’s why my mind was blown.

  78. elisa says:

    I think, and I could be wrong here, that our problem is that you cast such a wide net and you are basically asking for as many people to provide you with artwork and then and only then you will decide if you want any of it. If you had approached a specific artist that you like and had asked for them to design 5 pieces in return for a link, that’s a whole different story. That gives them a guarantee that their hours spent will be for a specific purpose and that their artwork will be used. It’s their decision if the link is worth it to them, but at least it’s not an open-ended scenario. For hundreds of artists to just sit down and try to create work, frankly with pretty vague direction from you, with absolutely no guarantee that they’ll get anything out of it would be a really bad business decision.

  79. Debora says:

    Trent, the link has only a *chance* of providing monetary value. In and of itself, it has no monetary value.

    Times this request by the many similar requests we receive and you get a lot of artists working hard with only a *possibility* that they will one day be paid. Can you understand why fielding these requests gets tedious?

    If you are going to request something – and while now you say you don’t want the art, this whole thread started with your request – please offer fair market value in return.

  80. Trent says:

    Debora: the link has monetary value in that the person whose link I provide could request a link to another site and get payment for it. Let’s say they could resell their link for $10 a month to someone who appreciates Google juice. Two years in, that’s $240.

  81. guinness416 says:

    Of course the offer Trent made was without malice, and out of the goodness of his heart. I could have made the same mistake ( if I had the time and talent to have a successful blog ;) )

    But now that a couple dozen graphic artists have weighed in (in their field of expertise, remember) and said, “hey, this happens a lot, here’s why we don’t like it, and here’s a few essays that explain it further,” isn’t it time to back off, accept that this is an issue in their professional community, and that it wasn’t a good a deal to them as it may appear?

    I agree with the poster above who said this series of comments is great from an awareness point of view. They’re pretty fascinating and educational from my standpoint (and polite and well-written, more than comments a lot of other blogs get). I still maintain the issues brought up here could make a great front page post!

    And the “I don’t delete dissenting comments” thing is tired. Comments are more than half the life and soul of any blog, from my point of view as a consumer. And the people commenting here ARE the readers of the site, the people who click on the advertising links, etc.

  82. Johanna says:

    So the compensation you’re offering is the opportunity to resell advertising space on your site? That’s very different from your offer to provide “exposure.” But still, I would think that people who want to earn money by selling advertising would be in that business, not in graphic arts. Wouldn’t it be just as easy for you, and a lot more attractive to them, for you to say “In exchange for your art I’ll give you a choice: either I’ll link to your personal site or I’ll give you a share of the advertising revenue I get”?

    Also, there’s still the issue where you’re asking that people do the work before they know whether or not you’re going to pay them. You could (it seems to me) get around that by saying “Show me some work that you’ve done elsewhere, and if I like it I’ll hire you to provide some specific graphics that I want.”

  83. Kevin says:

    Hey Trent, come and do some computer consulting for me. Do it for free. I promise to tell everyone about your great work…

    Man up and pay for what you need.

  84. Jonathan says:

    I’ve been reading the comments and trying to learn about both sides of the debate, and I think there’s the potential for these sorts of arguments to occur whenever you have a task where the emphasis is on form and not function. I have some thoughts with reference to spec work in general (not necessarily on Trent’s offer).

    The analogies I’ve read on the links don’t make sense to me in that regard. If I hire a neurosurgeon, a plumber, or a dentist, I’m looking for a functional end-result, and I don’t care about the method. If I hire a plumber to fix my toilet, he may be able to do it in ten different ways, but it doesn’t matter to me which way he choses as long as I obtain the functional end result of a working toilet.

    With an artist (or a writer, or an interior designer, or a landscape artist, etc.) I’ll want some end result functionality, but I’ll have a definite opinion on the form as well. As a consumer of this service, I need a way to make sure that the design the artist can provide will be satisfactory to me. In this case, my decision would be much easier if I could see how you would approach my specific project. If you were an attorney drafting a legal document for me, on the other hand, I wouldn’t care how you wrote it, as long as it was legally binding with respect to the issues that concerned me.

    I was trying to think of a middle ground between the two and I came up with the example of a custom-built home. If I approach a home-builder and ask them to build a home for me, I would work with their architect to make sure that the home would be to my liking. I will have functional requirements for the house (i.e. it must have three bedrooms, it must have a basement, etc.) but I’ll have an opinion on the form as well. I may be satisfied with the first design of the floor plan, or I may need the architect to do multiple drafts (i.e. can we move the fireplace to the other side of the room? can we rotate the island in the kitchen, etc.) In this case, the architect may do a lot of work or just a little work. I believe an architect would be paid on salary in this case, but his payment-per-task can vary greatly.

    There seem to be a number of cases where spec work is the norm, the only difference is which party takes the loss. For an artist submitting drafts for a spec job, the freelance artist assumes the risk and takes the loss if his or her work doesn’t produce the intended result (the buyer doesn’t like the design). For a salaried marketing professional, for example, the employer assumes the risk and takes the loss if his or her work doesn’t produce the intended result (market share don’t increase).

  85. Trent says:

    Kevin, for the fourth time now, I don’t need nor want the art. I was doing it as a favor to my audience that includes a fair number of graphic designers. Also, if you had an audience in the hundreds of thousands, I’d gladly do computer consulting work for you in exchange for a plug – it’s pretty standard to do pro bono work for advertisement if the audience is large enough.

  86. Tyler says:

    Trent- I think the main issue here is the lottery aspect. Would you do the pro bono consulting work if the client had dozens of consulters come in and only picked one to plug?

  87. Doug says:

    It’s naive to think that 1M hits a month wouldn’t provide exposure.
    There are a lot of small business owners and other business people that reference this site every day that could potentially be future clients. We need a translater/facilititator that understands both sides of the issue to convince them of the value. I’m starting to think that most of the negative comments are from starving artist because they don’t know how to grow their business.

  88. Paula says:

    Trent, out of curiosity…how many artists have actually sent you some art?

  89. Veronica says:

    No, look, there’s clearly something about this not adequately coming through here. Advertising space on The Simple Dollar has value, there’s no denying that because it’s a high traffic blog with quality content and people are willing to pay for the space. It isn’t that it has no value, it’s that it has no value for the particular business you’re giving the offer to. It isn’t even a question of whether people would click through to the artists’ sites- of course they would. But those clickthroughs will not convert the way they would for, say, another blog, and that’s what makes the trade unequal.

  90. Mitch says:

    Doug, I am not an artist, and of course it would provide exposure, which has some kind of value. But would it be enough useful exposure (value) to be worth the time and effort? Would you spend 10 hours to *maybe* get your specialized service posted at a general-audience site? That’s a gamble compared to doing something that will put you in touch with a targeted audience. That’s what I think Trent doesn’t understand–he’s suggesting people enter what is basically a lottery (there is not enough information available to know how to win it).

  91. illo says:

    Perhaps a better analogue to use would be a skilled tailor or a carpenter… illustration and graphic art is most often a custom made product where the “buyer” needs to enter into the dialogue with the maker. You wouldn’t order a suit saying “send me samples, any fabric, any size”, you would go into store and get measured.

    hence my previous comment about choosing the artists based on portfolios. that’s how things usually work. you email with the client and make a plan together, to ensure the work is fitting to the purpose and gets used.

    Where I live (Finland) the graphic artist’s guild is right now making guidelines to ban on-spec work for good, that’s how big a problem it is within the industry.

    All of this has nothing to do with your offer. Someone might think it is a good opportunity, or a good way to give you back for your wonderful site.

  92. Trent says:

    This isn’t a lottery. Anyone can send me five pieces. If I like them, you get listed in the artist section. If fifty artists send me stuff and I can find five from each that I like, I’ll list all fifty artists and give them each a page. There’s no contest of artist versus artist at all.

  93. blackliquorish says:

    It IS a lottery; I don’t know how you fail to follow this logical line. You said, and I quote, “IF I like them, you get listed…“. That means, if you don’t like them, they don’t get listed. The criteria is your personal taste/judgement. So an artist could do 1 or 10 or 1000 hours of work for no financial compensation and still not get listed.

  94. Trent says:

    blackliquorish: the other alternative is that I accept any five random pieces of rubbish sent to me. That’s not realistic, either. What if I got five blank images (“Reality #1″ through “Reality #5″) that somebody churned out in fifteen seconds? Without that clause, I would have to post these and give that person a link.

  95. blackliquorish says:

    Exactly; that’s why you should choose someone based on the portfolio and HIRE them to do what you want.

  96. Michelle says:

    Trent, here is where I feel you went wrong and it has nothing to do with discrediting your site. I am very close to both sides of this working in an ad agency and am giving a fair opinion.

    Web banners do have monetary value, I purchase media in my line of work, and you would not even believe the prices on things like this for the number of page views you recieve each month, this does have a lot of value.

    However, the value goes up only when the viewers fit your target demographic. Web banners are valuable to the company advertising, not the graphic designer who created them. These people get their value by the company advertising paying them and a small amount from exposure. In this case, the value of the work far exceeds the amount of exposure, because there is no company paying for their design as well.

    It is okay to ask for this type of thing, however the insulting part is the demand for specific types of work and a specific number, rather than asking to take rights to whatever graphics they already produced. You are assuming the trade is equal when it is not, instead of implying they would be helping you out, which is the case when the trade is in your favor.

  97. Wow. This is amazing. Here’s my non-artist take…

    Trent made an offer. Apparently it wasn’t a good one. In my eyes, the reasonable course of action would be to say no (or ignore it) and move on.

    It’s just like if a graphic artist contacted me and offered art in return for some other sort of service. I may well say no, but I wouldn’t attack the person that made the offer. Likewise, I wouldn’t berate them for offering me something that “has no value.” Clearly it does. It’s just that I don’t consider it to be valuable enough *to me* to make the exchange.

    People barter all the time. It’s interesting (and more than a bit odd) to me that so many people are being so defensive about this.

  98. Mel says:

    Hi Trent, I hope this isn’t taking too much time away from your other posts; I enjoy them quite a lot and find you inspirational. I’m trying to take your advice and apply it to many areas of my life, having dragged myself out of debt in much the same way you did, I do feel a certain kinship.

    I sympathize with the artists who feel that being approached to “donate” their work with no compensation is taking advantage but I agree with another comment that they are not being forced to submit anything. Also, I don’t think you ever specified that you were looking for “professional” artists. There are many amateur artists who would love to have someone display their art just because they love to draw, take photos, sculpt (although how you’d go about displaying sculpture, I don’t know :), paint, etc.

    My mother-in-law is an amateur artist. I say amateur only because she doesn’t paint with the express purpose of selling her work. She was approached to create a series of paintings for the local children’s hospital to which she responded with 7 paintings with a popular cartoon as the theme. My only question upon hearing about this wasn’t whether she was being paid for the 100s of hours of work she was doing, but only if the hospital was going to acknowledge her generosity with a plaque of some kind. She received no compensation either for the finished pieces or for the materials she had to buy to produce them. She did it solely for the joy she derived from painting them and the joy she knew they would bring those children. And, in answer to the obvious question, no, she isn’t rich or even well off, they are struggling to make ends meet but she just loves to paint. I love that about her.

    I wish I were talented enough to contribute something to your site. I am an amateur photographer though so maybe I’ll see what you think of my attempts at “art”. I have no pretensions that I could ever make a living as an artist, but if I chose to do so, I don’t think I’d blame others for my failure to be a good business person. At least, I hope I wouldn’t.

    Lastly, I wish that I could afford good art, but unfortunately, all the professional artists out there have priced me out of the market. I don’t think I should have to pay anyone for anything, more than I make in a month, especially when it probably didn’t take them a month to produce.

    There’s my $.03 (I am prepared for the backlash…)

  99. blackliquorish says:

    All you responders who think that the artists should have simply posted, “No thank you,” why do you think Trent has comments enabled? It’s for discussion. Discussion helps Trent get lots of nice hits on his blog, and make a little more money to support his dreams. To support discussion is to support Trent. I’m not sure why you want to limit that.

    I also think posters should get over thinking that “no value” is a personal attack. It’s not. If you offer me babysitting in exchange for me mowing your lawn, that offer has no value to me, because I don’t have children. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person; just that your offer has no value. It’s a financial discussion, not a personal one.

  100. Elaine says:

    Trent, you obviously touched a sore spot. Of course you didn’t know that such a sore spot existed, but now you do. I didn’t either, I’m not an artist, I read your post and thought, “hmm, that sounds like it could be pretty nice for an artist.” But from reading the comments I understand the other point of view, and it seems very reasonable. Would you contact all the tailors in town, and say “Hey guys! Could you make me a shirt? I don’t actually need one, but I thought I’d do you a favour. Nothing too fancy, but white-ish please, and size medium. Stripes are optional. I might wear all of them or none of them, depends if I like it. If I do, I’ll tell everyone you made it.”

    I think an appropriate thing here would be to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that my request was such a sore spot for graphic designers.”

  101. ar says:

    elaine nailed it.

  102. Debora says:

    That’s exactly it.

  103. Jillian says:

    Oh come on. All the people that are complaining about Trent’s offer are obviously professional artists who are already set up and making an income, and are missing the point – the offer was not intended for you, nobody is asking you to work for free!

    There are plenty of amateur artists out there who would appreciate this offer for what it was, and if you don’t believe me, just check out the marketplace at where hundreds of graphic designers a day are entering design contests where only the winner will be paid, or go to where thousands of photographers are contributing their stock photography for free.

    The problem as I see it is that although these amateur artists do exist and would be grateful for this offer, they either don’t read this blog, or they are busy creating some art for the site while all the professionals spend their time complaining, and rounding up their friends to complain too. I’m pretty sure I know which group is using their time more productively.

  104. blackliquorish says:

    Jillian, your comment makes no logical sense. You’re saying that the professionals who earn an income from art are wrong about how best to make a living in their field. Guess who I’d rather take advice from about a career in the arts: a successful working artist, an amateur unpaid artist, or a personal finance blogger in an unrelated field?

  105. Jillian says:

    No, I’m not saying they’re wrong. I confess to not completely understanding the mentality of the people who contribute their work for free, I’m just pointing out that they exist.

    I’m a web designer who is very grateful for the work of people like those who contribute photography at sxc, and I’m thrilled that they are offering it for free. I don’t know what they get out of it, but they obviously think they benefit somehow.

    I can understand that the professional graphic artists want to protect their industry by trying to dissuade people from doing this, I too have issues with web designers who will work for next to nothing because it devalues what I do in the same way.

    All I’m saying is that there ARE people out there, who, for whatever reason, would appreciate Trent’s offer, and those were the people to whom he was addressing it, not anyone else. I suspect he just overestimated the number of those people who read his blog, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  106. Rob says:

    You might want to take advantage of this situation and put up some google ads from places that illustrators shop.

    It seems like every artist put links up on their sites to this entry.

  107. Trent says:

    I have had multiple takers on this offer. So far, I’ve accepted all of them and am waiting to hear back from them to conclude the deal.

    As for the professional artists here, I’ve got to wonder why they spent so much time trolling this thread instead of doing work. Wouldn’t just taking five of their photographs from their image collection, scaling them down, then sending them to me (which would have taken less time than many of the comments) have been better for their careers than the trolling?

    I had one person send me five scaled down photographs of different aspects of currency. He said they were nice, but he didn’t know how he’d ever use them professionally. I loved them and they’ll likely soon be posted here. It took him about five minutes and the “cost” of giving me permission to use resources he wouldn’t otherwise use and suddenly he’s going to be getting exposure he didn’t have before, plus the Google benefits of thousands of links to his image blog, which he uses as a portfolio. I really, really fail to see how that’s a loss for him.

  108. DJ says:

    “As for the professional artists here, I’ve got to wonder why they spent so much time trolling this thread instead of doing work.”

    I think we would all be served well by working instead of looking at this site, but that’s no reason to lash out, Trent.

    The fact that people are here, taking time to try and explain why your idea may not be so great, is a sign of support for you and what you’re trying to do in general.

    Lashing out at people who support you, even while disagreeing with you, is not a good business move nor is it showing gratitude for those who enable you to do what you love to do–write–day after day.

  109. Debora says:

    “As for the professional artists here, I’ve got to wonder why they spent so much time trolling this thread instead of doing work.”

    That was downright rude, Trent. We are curious about others’ opinions and appreciate the opportunity to enlighten others on the facts in a polite discussion. That is why artists are checking back so often and commenting.

    So, instead of sharing our opinion, you think we should have been working for you? Rude, rude, rude.

  110. Trent says:

    I’m not lashing out, I’m just growing tired of a one-sided discussion here that consists of “educating” me. I understand the business model, I just think it’s flawed.

    Not one of the artists has explained to me how 2,000 free PR 5 links to their portfolio is valueless. Is this valueless to an artist? This is not addressed by any of the artists, and that’s why I say this is trolling and not discussion.

    That question hits upon a very valid flaw in the “no free work for exposure” model – people are going to use Google to find online artists, and these links DIRECTLY move an artist higher in Google search results, which DIRECTLY leads to both more business and more page views (which you can monetize). How is that valueless? If you’re an artist and you’re not trolling, explain to all of us how there is no value here.

  111. Trent says:

    Rude? How about comments like “c’mon trent, i thought you were better than this” and “if you want quality art for your site, pay for it” and “Your site is successful enough that you should pay them. Exposure is not enough for an artist. Cheap.”, just within the first ten comments or so.

    What’s even more rude is that this criticism is often matched with links to the artist’s portfolios – I’m giving their portfolios free exposure while I get insulted.

    And still, no artist has answered the question of how delivering potential clients to their portfolio is valueless. Not directly from The Simple Dollar, but via Google – people who are actually seeking the art and I’m helping them get there.

  112. Mitch says:

    Trent, that’s because none of them said it was valueless. That’s a straw man–the world is not black and white like that. The perceived value of your exposure is just lower than you seem to think, and the perceived value of their time is just higher than you seem to think.

  113. DJ says:

    Someone did mention that a higher Google ranking wouldn’t help much because most clients do not look for graphic artists by googling.

    I did say that you were being cheap and ripping people off and for that I will apologize, though I do not agree with your offer.

  114. blackliquorish says:

    I don’t know about the others, but I work all day long (and am still at work, 10:15 pm EST) and check blogs as Photoshop is saving my 2GB+ files. Trent manages to blog and work; why is it so hard to believe that artists can too?

    And I can’t speak for other artists, but I don’t get jobs because people Google something generic, like “photographer.” I get jobs because people want to hire me specifically, my unique vision and skillset, and they find me by Googling my name. And I’m the top result for that. And the second, the third, the fourth…

  115. Trent says:

    So I am offering something with some value in exchange for something else with some value. Different people hold those values at different levels.

    An established artist might not need the exposure, and thus holds the exposure as having little value, but a brand new person trying to get their name out there as a brand could possibly use the exposure, considering it doesn’t take much work to get it.

    Now, considering that I’m not interested in the art itself too much (mostly, I just want to make sure to not post any art that would demean The Simple Dollar) and that I have no interest in hiring any work done (I have more fun doing it myself), how is it fair in any way to say that my offer is cheap? Maybe it’s not appropriate compensation for a seasoned artist, but if I wanted a seasoned artist, I’d go find a seasoned artist and pay for their art.

  116. Delphina says:

    Commenter #1 already said it; we already get more valuable sources of exposure than Google search rankings, and creating original art for you is not free, because it expends our time. I don’t know if it’s because Google is a big company or a million is a big number that this is so hard to grasp for you. But we don’t get our clients from Google searches for “online artists”, and quantity of visitors to our portfolio websites is not the reason we don’t have more clients than we do.

    Also, working for the perceived value of “exposure” shows you and your 1 million readers that it’s a good idea to make requests like this and that graphic designers in general should take them up on an offer for “exposure” as payment, and that’s a bogey that’s costing us clients every day. So on the subconscious level, simply proposing this offer actually gives all professional designers a negative value, whether we take you up on it or not.

    We are taking the extra effort to educate you, or ‘troll’, if you’d prefer, because correcting this ignorant mindset is critical to our success as designers.

  117. blackliquorish says:

    It comes across as cheap because you didn’t specify wanting amateur artists to submit something that didn’t “take much work”. You’ve said all that subsequently in your comments, but the post itself is written as though you’re looking for “graphic design artists” who do “quality work.”

  118. Trent says:

    Delphinia, how come your “education” of me was followed up by a link to your portfolio? I thought the exposure here was worthless to you. If it is, why waste the time posting the link? By allowing that link, I’m providing a positive value to you and any other graphical design commenter who lectures me about the negative value I’m providing.

  119. blackliquorish says:

    All the PF bloggers put their links as well. Or do you only berate people who fill out the “website” field when they disagree with you?

  120. Trent says:

    No, I could care less about disagreeing with me. What I care about is hypocrisy, and that’s what putting your own link in immediately after berating me for providing negative value for artists. The fact that so many do put links in demonstrates that it has positive value, otherwise no one would put forth the effort. So, she’s shouting that I am providing negative value, then immediately grabs some positive value.

  121. Trent says:

    In fact, if the links from here were truly valueless to a graphic artist, why are many graphic artist names in this thread linked to their portfolio?

  122. blackliquorish says:

    Or, she thought it was a more honorable way to stand by her comments — by linking them to her profession and her real name.

  123. Trent says:

    In other words, a positive value. Thanks for illustrating my point, blackliquorish.

  124. blackliquorish says:

    It’s no different than signing a letter with your full name.

  125. Trent says:

    But, again, that’s positive value. Signing your name to a letter means that you’re responsible for the content of the letter, and the value of that letter is reflected to you.

    The fact that artists have already begun to appear on “The Simple Dollar Artists” section on the sidebar (check for yourself) tells me that my offer has value to some people, which is really all that matters. When I have professional graphic design needs (I have had them before, and I will have them again), the people in that section are the ones I’ll turn to, those that contribute positively. I’m willing to bet the same is true of a lot of personal finance bloggers.

    This is my final comment on this thread – it’s basically going in circles at this point.

  126. Delphina says:

    The first time I commented, I filled out the form field, and the form field automatically stays populated in my particular web browser? Also, I do agree with blackliquorish that it shows that I’m speaking with something of a design background.

    If you think I’m reaping value from it or being hypocritical by including it, I can take it off if you like and promise not to accept any clients that tell me they found me through The Simple Dollar. -shrug!- But I think you’re grasping at straws.

  127. blackliquorish says:

    I’m out too — I stuck around to see how the thread would resolve, and frankly, I’m appalled. I’m gone from this site. Bye!

  128. illo says:

    The point here is not what you are offering (exposure) but how you want to handle the process (spec work). It’s not about whether your offer has value or not. At least I would react the exact same way if you offered a substantial sum of money.

    Ok, I am done with “trolling” now. I have enjoyed your site immensely in the past, tried to participate in this conversation by discussing how spec work is seen as a problem with the industry, but have no desire to come back here anymore.

  129. Green says:

    While some readers may take Trent’s offer as him not valuing artistic work, there is nothing wrong with him making this offer. Trent’s clear intention was not to insult or devalue anybody, but to offer an opportunity that he thought valuable.

    There are probably people who will find this offer valuable, and thus take Trent up on his deal. Even if Trent was doing this to get free graphics, although he has already stated that he wasn’t, it wouldn’t be wrong to ask. If he asks and someone responds to his offer, the market has attributed the value of exposure to be equal to the artist’s time and effort put into creating the pieces. If no one responds, no harm, no foul. Just because Trent at this time is not in the market to purchase artistic services for money does not mean he does not value an artist’s work.

    Trent’s offer is exactly the same as an unpaid internship, which are very common. No one complains that the intern in this case is unappreciated or devalued through the process – it is merely an opportunity for the individual to show to his/her future employer that he/she has the experience it is looking for.

    If you are an artist, it is unreasonable to tout how you’ve been insulted – just don’t respond to his offer, and find someone who will pay for your work. The market will decide how much an individual’s work is worth. There are plenty of those out there who will pay for your work, as I have myself in the past.

  130. Debora says:

    Why you would alienate an entire industry here is baffling. You didn’t have to agree or even understand this issue, but you could have at least respected the fact that professionals feel this devalues their industry.

    My opinion of The Simple Dollar has dropped significantly. Doubt I’ll be back.

  131. Mitch says:

    I can definitely see that people would be a little upset by being asked to violate their professional standards of conduct (risk management), but it’s sad that no better solution could be agreed on.

  132. Michelle says:

    I think the right thing to do here is admit you may have insulted an entire profession and apologize. We know you did not mean it that way because you are not an artist and didnt imagine it would create this much controversy, but now that you know the reasoning behind it, just admit the other side may have been overlooked and apologize for the lack of foresight.

    I think it is the unwillingness to accept the others position that you knew nothing about and move on that has really gotten so many designers upset.

  133. Mukesh says:

    Trent I think you need to understand how Google ranks its search results. If it were that easy as your mention it, then the search results can easily be flawed. In fact, the search ranking algorithm did have flaws in it initially and people figured that out and posted bogus links on their pages to creep up their site in the rankings. Google figured this out quickly and altered the algorithm so website developers can’t take advantage of this.

    So my point is, if it is that easy as you make it out to be in your comments, then Google search results will be flawed (if people search for artist and your personal finance blog shows up because you have links to artists’ websites… then that is a major problem,obviously). They don’t have PHD’s writing Google search engine algorithms just for nothing.

    So what your selling to these artists (by the way, I’m not an artist…I’m a web architect by profession) isn’t really “what your selling”. Also even if Google search DID work that way… you are selling (or providing favor as you say it) Google exposures via your website then that business model doesn’t make sense. They can submit their site to Google directly without any effort of creating and sending graphics to Google that they may use on their site.

  134. Trent says:

    I am going to step in with two factual corrections here.

    Mukesh: Page Rank is based, at least in part, on the number of inbound links. Higher value sites (with higher page rank) confer more value on the pages they link to. So, yes, links from popular sites have significant value.

    All artists: I don’t want the art, thus I don’t see why I should pay for it. If I wanted the art, I would agree with you that I am going about this wrong.

    I knew I had artists as readers and I thought it would be kind to give them free exposure, but I didn’t want a flood of spam – I don’t want 5,000 artists demanding a link for nothing – so I tried to come up with a simple threshold for giving my artist-readers exposure.

    The rest of this entire argument is nothing more than artists grinding their axes about the state of their industry and insulting me in the process by demeaning me personally as well as the value of my site, for no good reason as far as I can tell.

  135. trent, people are going way overboard on this one. thanks for using my pics. i don’t make a dime off my pictures since they’re just sitting on my computer. i’m glad you liked my pictures and can direct people to my mediocre website. use them all you want man!

  136. Tyler says:

    Wow. The artists on here are all being a little anal. I’m not an artist but I liked the idea of me possibly creating something that would be used here. If it doesn’t interest you, then so be it – but I think that you all are missing the point.

  137. NolinkHere says:

    Yikes. I was a fan of this site… but I am deeply troubled by this thread. The issues and differences in perceptions are clear, but what amazes me is how Trent absolutely refused to back down even an inch and admit that there were issues to his offer that he hadn’t considered that might be problematic for others. Given the volume of comments, it’s not just in other people’s heads, this is obviously a legitimate issue. And then the fact that you insist on taking it personally and being insulted, when in fact the other side perceived that you insulted them first, well, you just alienated readers for nothing. You didn’t even attempt to find common ground, you just reiterate that you don’t need it anyways and they can all quit their griping. It’s not just the original topic, but the way you handled it after that. This site has now jumped my shark. Sorry.

  138. Trent says:

    There’s nothing to back down from, unless I just rescind the offer, and that would be wholly unfair to the people who are taking me up on it.

    And I’m far from taking it personally. If I were taking it personally, I wouldn’t allow such intense criticism of myself to be out there. I opened up the floodgates and allowed a lot of people to criticize a stand I took – I would think it sad if I did NOT participate in the debate and stand up for the perspective that pro bono work like this can help a business. It can – without it, I would have never been a success.

    I would have much rather had individual one-on-one discussions with artists, but most of them (like the person who made the “jump the shark” comment above) left invalid email addresses or made threatening responses about me using their personal email address. I consider it highly questionable when a person will levy an attack on someone’s beliefs and then be unwilling to engage in follow-up discussion about it – it’s very unprofessional when you’re doing it in a way that represents your profession.

  139. Vincent says:

    Been awhile since I commented last, but this is too interesting a thread to pass up (even if I am late to the party).

    As a young designer, I know just the sort of spec work the designers and artists above are complaining about. Imagine the cigar-smoking man in an expensive business suit going on about an “opportunity of a lifetime” — even if that wasn’t your intent, that is the way it came off.

    I’ll be the first to say that even just commenting on your site leads to more traffic for mine, not to mention a higher page rank. However, I think you could’ve gone about this better by contacting artistic readers directly instead of putting out a casting call. Your intent is honorable, but you’ve obviously touched a bit of a sore spot among the designer community; we deal with people who place no value on our work all the time, and although I don’t think you undervalue good art (you have an artist relative, as you’ve mentioned in other posts), this offer smacks sorely of the type of person who does undervalue good art.

    That said, I’d be more than happy to submit something to you. I love this blog and am a regular reader/commenter, and I’d be happy to give you some graphics as a contribution to the community you’ve jumpstarted here — not for the exposure, but for the sake of helping the cause of something I believe in. We as creatives may deal with crap offers frequently, but it seems it’s led to oversensitivity in the matter of value of our artwork.

  140. freespine says:

    The way Trent handled it wasn’t great, but the original message wasn’t very pleasant. It sounds like “Why don’t you do this thing for me? I don’t really need it, but it would be good for you.” No wonder he got such a strong response.

  141. Brad says:

    One suggestion,

    If you are going to use an artist’s image….make the image itself a live link to the artist’s website. Also, drop in a credit line beneath the image with the artist’s name and a copyright symbol. It doesn’t help much if the artist’s name is not connected with the image. This was the case with the images of David’s that you’ve been using.


  142. Ankur says:

    I may be a bit naive, but money does not make you an artist, nor does the amount of exposure. I am an artist because I need to paint in order to live. The money will always follow the passion….not the other way around.

    I firmly believe that Trent had all the best intentions at heart.

  143. Brad says:

    Artists still have to pay the bills. Just like everyone else. :-)

  144. Lino says:

    Just wanted to know if this offer’s still on the table.

    I suppose I could understand people complaining about free exposure not being fair payment but you said it a million times, you don’t even want it so you’re basically doing a favor to those whose work you accept.

    Very interesting site by the way, lots of interesting articles.

  145. Heather says:

    Wow, I can see why our economy tanked. The attitude of these people is so sad.

    You didn’t ask them to make a free sign for you plumbing business. You offered to share your stage with them. Amazingly ungrateful of them and amazinly gracious and generous of you.

  146. Debs Australia says:

    Hi Trent…I thought your offer was kind. Don’t worry about what they say about you..I am a fledgling artist, not a graphic designer and I would be thrilled to have my work exposed through any means…perhaps once these ‘artists’ have had a pay check, they think they are above the rest..good for you..keep up the good work..u provide a terrific service and thats what it’s all about if you ask me…

  147. Riley says:

    I’m a biologist, so I consider myself fairly neutral here, but after having read all of the comments, I have to say that no matter what the artists were upset about, Trent seems to have failed to listen and turned a lot of readers away.

    Multiple people essentially said that their feelings were hurt, and each time Trent essentially responded with (the false logic error) that “because I did not mean to offend anyone, they have no right to be offended. Case closed.”

    Elaine’s tailor analogy seemed perfect. No matter that Trent was trying to do people a favor and that the artists weren’t required to participate.

    I found this website about 2 hours ago, and my joy turned to a deep disappointment after reading the comments of this section.

  148. Izabelle says:

    Just found (and read) this thread. Oh boy…

    Trent, you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble by narrowing the offer a bit – being more specific about what you want and explaining that your restrictions are aimed at avoiding spam, for one. Also quantifying the value of the links would have helped. Or asking for 1 or 2 sample pieces, so that the person gets chosen before losing too much time upfront.

    I am a professional designer (art director in fact), and let me tell you, our profession gets demeaned daily. Graphic artists, designers, illustrators and visual artists also tend to all get shoved in the same basket while there are very real differences between the various graphic professions. It does get irritating after a while to have to routinely get referred

  149. Izabelle says:

    Sorry for the cut…
    I meant get routinely referred to as people who “just make things pretty”, or to be asked questions like “would you rather do this or actually work?”. People also tend to grossly underestimate the time required to do our work, and think that the only time involved is for the execution. For these reasons you touched a sore spot in people who are already weary of this type of badly communicated offer.

    As a communications professional, I would recommend that you do a bit of background research first next time, and word your offer in a clearer manner. I’m sure that if you had quantified the value of the link upfront, like any good ad rep does (trust me, I’ve done media placement), the response would have been different.

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