Unpaid Art Tests - Why is this even a thing????

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Hi Polycount, I'm a freelance artist and recently I've been given two art tests. Both are unpaid and both expect couple of days to complete.


One demands 2 days of my working days and another is 5 days. The brief of the 2 day asks for game assets, character design AND UI design. The 5 day test stipulates that I'm not even able to maintain ownership of my work... both briefs has HUGE red flags for me.


I don't see anyone asking their dentists to do a free cleaning to see if they indeed have the chops to be your teeth guardian,

I don't see construction workers working for free just to see if they really can lift that 500lbs steel bar with their awesome strength,

Nor do I see a cleaner cleaning for free because their client wants to see if they indeed can clean at their satisfaction.


Most cases, even if the work you hired people to do are not done at your satisfaction, they still get compensated.


So why is it a common practice for artists to work for free? Why do people think exposure and experience is a compensation?
-----------------Why are Art Tests expected to be done for free?????


Just to note, I'm not a "FOB", I've worked in the industry as well as the design industry and have almost a decade of freelance experience so I know that my concerns are valid. Until all of us band together and say No to this "very common practice" this will be reality for all of us.


I appreciate your input, personal experiences as well as any advice.


Thanks Polycount.

Replies

  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor polycount lvl 666
    Is you doing them though?

    People will get away with as much as they can. That's just how it is. Reason we have to have laws that make punishment for cutting off your neighbors head. People do that shit.

  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis polycount lvl 666
    I'd ask for yourself to be compensated for the art test. I don't think anybody will become angry with that question. For the 5 day art test, maybe don't send them the models, but images and breakdown of the models, to guarantee they don't use this in their game?

    Can I ask what country you're from? I feel like you're more likely to be paid for an art test in Europe than in North America, could be wrong though.
  • soaps
    No, I'm not doing the test I've already sent them rejection letters. I'm frustrated that this is still a thing.
    But me not doing it won't stop this from happening, there will be others who are willing/desperate to do the free work.

    Just because it is a "common practice" does not make it right. It'd be ideal, especially to those who are new, to value their skills and the training they had to get through in order to be where they are at: we all need to value our time---the amount of training we did, the mental discipline we had to uphold, plus the personal hours we spent to polish our craft.

    This is a hard thing to do, especially with all the insecurities and anxieties we hold on a daily basis (even hourly for some), but this is why we have forums like these, so we can talk and speak with the people in the field. 

    Like you said people still do awful things despite it being illegal. Until we all grow a backbone, these type of things will happen and will continue to happen, and people will take advantage of us. As of right now, they all think it is alright to assign free work if it means there are few that are willing. On top of it all many of us has an idea that we will get compensation in the future and that is good enough.
    Even if you do the unpaid test/work, and land a job, I highly doubt they will respect you as a person. 

    Right now as artists, as this is s a "common practice", for those who are just entering the field to do unpaid work and tests, they don't even have leverage to say No. This is not right, and it is up to us to fix the mentality of non-artists and our future/potential employers and clients, and to protect ourselves and our time.

    We Deserve Better.


  • soaps
    I'd ask for yourself to be compensated for the art test. I don't think anybody will become angry with that question. For the 5 day art test, maybe don't send them the models, but images and breakdown of the models, to guarantee they don't use this in their game?


    I am a 2D artist; any assets I send them, watermarked and all, will easily be used if they see fit and have a competent photoshopper.

    the 5 day test asks for the original files as well as pdfs, AND complete full ownership. :#

    Hello Red Flags, and Good bye. 

    edit: I've already asked if I will be compensated and the answer was no. 
  • slosh
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    slosh quad damage
    So, while unfortunate, unpaid art tests exist because the market is saturated and companies can choose to be picky.  Obviously, if you become a well known senior artist, this will happen less as clients or companies will trust your abilities.  The caveat is you would have to be pretty damn good for this to ever happen.  For the rest of us, this is not the case.  You can always ask for payment but most places won't do it cuz they know they have 10 other people already doing the art test for free.  Plus with more and more art being outsourced to much cheaper external vendors, studios can be EVEN pickier about who they hire in house.  You are freelance which is a bit different though.  It might help to work for an outsource vendor so this doesn't happen as companies usually don't test vendors.  They just look at the folio of work and decide whether to hire based off of that.
  • thomasp
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    thomasp sublime tool
    Well if it's any consolation: not too long ago I was approached by a well-known developer for what turned out would have basically been an art-test (with a chance to get paid if deemed sufficient) - for a freelance contract. So basically I was expected to put in the work up-front in the hope of scoring the contract. Very tech-dependant work too to be imported into some inhouse engine I know nothing about.

    And I did not even apply for this gig - they contacted me a few times, initially even wanted to hire me full time.

    I mean I do understand the need to narrow down the applicant pool if you are looking to hire full time from a number of hopefuls, the portfolio is inconclusive and you'd also be fronting the new employees relocation costs, but for this...?

    Anyway, turns out declining job offers can be quite satisfying. :)

  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor polycount lvl 666
    soaps said:

    But me not doing it won't stop this from happening, there will be others who are willing/desperate to do the free work.





    Yes, that's why I'm saying any company that has you signing a contract that says you won't talk shit about the company is a major red flag and nobody should work for a company like that. I don't care if it's Blizzard, Naughty Dog... if you sign a contract like that, you are a buddy fucker.

    Because what happens? They use you and abuse you, you leave with your tail between your legs, and then you just keep your mouth shut while you watch everybody else go to do the same thing? Unforgivable! What's even the point of being a human and having language if you don't use it to warn others?

    Obviously developers forming a union seems like the most direct and immediate solution to abuse of workers rights, but I really think there has to be a change in culture for any long-term meaningful solution. There cannot be total forfeiture of responsibility  for victims... as in, you got abused and there is zero responsibility on your part to avoid obviously bad situations like that in the first place. That's not right. Somebody drives recklessly on the road and ends up getting htemselves hurt, what do we do? We shame them for being stupid. "You learned your lesson didn't you?"

    Of course a young kid being manipulated and taken advantage of by a major, prestigious corporation isn't as obviously stupid as speeding, but I really can't see how people who have been abused and don't sound the horn is not shameful. If I am climbing with my friends and I dislodge a rock and it's coming down at them, and I don't yell "rock!", well what the fuck is wrong with me? A real asshole right?

    But that's a bigger problem. 8 billion people, nobody even knows their neighbors or gives a shit. If that's not a dystopia, I dunno what is. It's very unhuman to not have a tribe that you give everything for. You need to care about others like they are family, otherwise it's all just a total waste of time isn't it?
  • soaps
    thomasp said:

    Anyway, turns out declining job offers can be quite satisfying. :)

     How Dare they contact YOU and expect an unpaid art test for a freelance contract?! This is comedy gold. But I'm so happy to hear that you avoided them, *phew*
    If they have the balls to say such things to us, I don't see why we can't install steel plates of our own and give them a taste of their own medicine. 

    slosh said:
    So, while unfortunate, unpaid art tests exist because the market is saturated and companies can choose to be picky.  Obviously, if you become a well known senior artist, this will happen less as clients or companies will trust your abilities.  The caveat is you would have to be pretty damn good for this to ever happen.  For the rest of us, this is not the case.  You can always ask for payment but most places won't do it cuz they know they have 10 other people already doing the art test for free.  Plus with more and more art being outsourced to much cheaper external vendors, studios can be EVEN pickier about who they hire in house.  
    I understand that you're trying to explain the reality of it, but I'm afraid that we are all staying complacent to this issue and we will never get anywhere at this rate.  Like you said, there will always be someone lining up to do the tests for free,  But does this mean we are alright with this? Isn't this a problem we want to overcome and solve? Many of us still line up to do the free test because we understand that this is the reality and right at that moment, they are in need of work and have no other choice but to accept.
    It is easy to just get over the immediate problem at hand, and move onto your next problem but that one decision to push forward to do the task isn't just your problem anymore, but for many others who wish to change this reality. It really only takes that one person willing to do free work that ruins it for us all.
    If we don't stand up for ourselves and create more choices available, no matter how much we love doing what we do, we will be sandpapered mentally and physically until there is nothing left. 
    Obviously developers forming a union seems like the most direct and immediate solution to abuse of workers rights, but I really think there has to be a change in culture for any long-term meaningful solution. There cannot be total forfeiture of responsibility  for victims... as in, you got abused and there is zero responsibility on your part to avoid obviously bad situations like that in the first place. That's not right. Somebody drives recklessly on the road and ends up getting htemselves hurt, what do we do? We shame them for being stupid. "You learned your lesson didn't you?"

    This problem, along with many problems that we have to solve, will not be resolved overnight. It will take long-term and you're right, we ourselves has to change our mentality and eventually culturally. 

    No one in our society likes to take responsibility, and this is the core issue of it all. Just like how we stuff ourselves full of sushi to the point that the ocean is now turning bare, we are STILL gorging ourselves with fish. 
     No Body Cares---and this is absolutely heartbreaking. 


     
  • Eric Chadwick
    I get the outrage. However it's a supply issue, as people point out. You can't educate all freelancers; it's a free-for-all. If you're bucking the system, you'll get only so much tolerance before employers stop talking to you. 

    You can either work within the system to get work (and that's do-able, as demonstrated here), or figure out an alternative income stream. There are plenty of alternatives for digital creatives now. Self-marketing via multiple content stores is one approach. Quite a few forum threads about this, including solutions and guidance.

    I can't recommend this book enough, clearly and concisely explains the business side of creative work, and how to work this system to your benefit. Your local library will have a copy.
    Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines
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