And the winner is……someone else!

Okay, picture this….

You’re thinking of buying a new car. You’re not too sure what make you want, so you head off to a car showroom. But this is no ordinary showroom. Every make of car is under the one roof! Toyotas, BMW’s, Hyundai’s etc. They’re all lined up next to each other, brand new, shiny and gleaming. You finally decide on one and hand the salesman a cheque. Too easy.

But what about the other car makers? They put a lot of time, effort and money in to show you their wares but they go home empty handed. No prizes for coming second. Doesn’t really seem fair does it?

Now imagine this. You’re a book designer in a large publishing company. You’ve come up with an idea for a book cover. A 1930’s scene of a young couple standing by a moonlit lake. You’d like it to be a vector illustration, rendered in various shades of blue and you know how much is in the budget.

So you go to the usual agents, illustration sites or directories that professional illustrators use, select a handful of those you think might be suitable, drop them a line, ask them if they’re available and see if they have anything in their folios they could submit as samples. And if they don’t, most of them are more than happy to put something together for you. Sounds good doesn’t it? That’s the way it’s worked for years and it seems to work pretty well. Everyone’s happy. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

But what if you could send your brief to someone who then gets dozens of illustrators, some professionals, some amateurs (some neither!) all of whom then interpret the brief as they see fit. No contact with the client, no chance of building up a good working relationship. You’re then presented with a hundred designs/artworks/illustrations. You select the one that fits your brief the best and discard the rest. The winner gets paid, the rest go home empty handed and out of pocket. Doesn’t seem fair either does it?

I wish this scenario was just a terrifying prospect, but I’m afraid it’s much more than that. It’s a frightening reality and here’s the reason why…

As illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, website designers and all other creative freelancers, we have to do something about it soon or the very cornerstone of our industry, the artist/client relationship will cease to exist and pitching for work will simply become a lottery.

Of course, the winner could be you. But don’t hold your breath.

Comments invited.

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