Here's an average summary of a private message that I receive on a weekly basis:
I just came by your profile and saw your art, and was very impressed. I think you have a very nice art style. Now I'm working on this project. It's called <project>. It's an awesome story about <subject>. I'm currently writing the script for it, but I'm planning to make a visual novel. I can't tell too much about the story, since I don't want it to be copied, but it's going to be really cool. The point is; I need illustrators. I'm an excellent writer, but I can't do illustration at all. And therefore, I wanted to ask for your help. I need about 60 pages illustrated and colored. Would you work together with me on this one? I don't have any money to spend, as I'm not an established writer yet. But when the visual novel gets published, you can get a percentage of my profit.
With kind regards,
Well... let me translate this for you.
This Person X is a writer. An excellent one, if you have to believe his statement. He came to my profile, and was very impressed with my art. But as there are at least 20 other names in the CC, I probably wasn't the only one artist that he was impressed by. And since the message lacks a personal reference, it's highly assumed that he send that same message to about a hundred of other artists... in the hope that somebody --anybody-- picks up his illustration request.
He says he is an excellent writer, yet his gallery doesn't show a single piece of writing. I basically have no idea what this project is about, and he ain't gonna tell me either. He's so damn afraid that someone copies his oh-so-awesome plot line, that he even refused to give a small summary. But seeing a gallery full of below-average-level illustrated fanart, and his age being about 15 years old, I assume this 'excellent writing' is either the next piece of anime fanfic, or just another generic anime-based story with characters whose look is probably the only awesome thing about them. Don't get me wrong. Nothing wrong with anime. I watch it a lot. But good luck if you think you're gonna sell a manga-styled visual novel with a plot that looks like it's ripped from just a generic anime. It's not gonna happen.
He wants 60 pages illustrated and colored. That's quite a lot, if you ask me. And I might be a slow illustrator (really, I am), but drawing and coloring a single page is gonna cost me at least a few hours. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. There's a reason why most Japanese manga's are in black and white. Not only to save on printing costs, but also to increase production speed. Because.... coloring takes time! A whole damn lot of time!
Last but not least. The costs. Of course Person X has no money. No wonder. He's a 15 years old kid that probably never had a job and haven't got anything published either. Yes, this an assumption. But seeing he hasn't taken into account how much money printing and shipping costs (it really is expensive), and the fact that he hasn't listed a single plan how to actually promote and market this thing, makes me think that he gave only little thought to that subject. Hence, I think he's inexperienced.
Well... let's be honest.
These things can be fun and flattering once in a while. But getting them on a weekly basis is annoying the shit out of me.
Why? Because I think it's damn arrogant to go around artists, beg them if they can do hours of hard work for free, just to see your project illustrated. And then get angry if an artists turns their offer down. I've seen so much of this already, that it makes me sick.
First of all, I'm not a professional illustrator. I might have decent artwork quality, but I'm not a professional in the sense that I illustrate for money. I have health issues. I have a full-time job that is demanding enough already. Luckily I earn good money by doing that job, so I don't need the extra money from art commissions. I have the freedom to spend my free time however I want, by illustrating whatever the heck I want, and I'd like to keep it that way. One look at my profile front page would've learned you so. Reading my FAQ (the link is also posted at my homepage) would learn you the reason why. So why would anyone even bother sending me that kind of message? Are they that arrogant to think that their request could change my mind on the entire subject?
But let's say that I took commissions. That I did do art for money. They send me a request for illustrating and coloring 60 pages. Let's say you work real fast (I don't, but let's say you do) and you finish one page in about 4 hours. That takes 60 x 4 = 240 hours. On a full-time job, I work 40 hours a week. That means 6 weeks I could've been working. I could've earned 1.5 monthly salary at an average job during that time. And this isn't even a realistic expectation. If there is one thing that I learned from freelancing, is that you will never complete a project in the minimum time. Mostly because of the customer. They haven't got their source material together, they want changes, they want meetings... and whatever. In the early years, a freelance colleague once learned me that in order to guess a good time estimate, you need to take the minimum time required to get the job done, and multiply that by 1.5. And from years of experience in the web industry, I can say that way of estimating is quite correct. So yeah... that makes 9 weeks of my life I could've spend earning money on a regular job.
To do the math; 9 weeks = 360 hours. Apply that to the hourly minimum wage
of $10.99 in the Netherlands (where I live) and this whole project would be worth $3956. And that's only minimum
wage. Yeah... we're talking about real money here.
And that's exactly the point I want to make. Because Person X has no money. He expects me to do $3956 worth of work to do for free. And maybe, if he's selling enough... I would get some of his money. MAYBE!
Well... let's do some more math here. Let's say the average full color manga is about $10
. That means he has to sell 396 of those books to pay my costs. Not his, not the printing costs, not the shipping costs. No, he needs to sell 396 copies alone for me
to get even.
Anyone with realistic expectations knows that that is never gonna happen. Not by a 15 year old kid, a book that has a generic anime plot line, and without a decent marketing plan. It's doomed to fail. Even if I illustrate his entire book, he might sell a few copy's to friends and family. But he ain't gonna sell anywhere over 50 copies. And yeah... I've talked to enough artists at anime conventions to know the average selling rate for original art. Unless you already have a massive fanbase and a solid marketing plan, you will be having a hard time to get even with the printing costs alone.
All in all, this is a selfish request from a kid that wants to see his concept illustrated.
The sad truth is... it's not only kids I get those kind of requests from. I can forgive a kid for not knowing how the world works. But many of those requests where from people that were over 20 years old. People that I suppose have jobs and have an idea of how hard is it to pay their bills. People that willingly send out these requests to lure hard working artists into this kind of traps. They might be delusional about their ideas being a success, but most of them just want to see their concept illustrated, and can't be bothered about other people spending a whole damn lot of time on it.
Even many people from the game industry nowadays go to DeviantArt in order to e-mail artists to work for them on shady contracts. I'm talking about well paid recruiters from game company's that contact art students. Those students work for free, just to hope making something that's good for their portfolio's. In the hope they will ever get a small percentage of money from a game that will never sell, or even never see the light of day. And that's the sad truth.
To be honest; getting this kind of selfish requests on a weekly basis, makes me sick.
I have a project that I work on myself. I am a writer myself. And when I wanted my art illustrated, I learned myself how to draw in order to make illustrations for my concept. Sure. I perfectly understand not everybody is capable of doing that. But if you want people to help you out, then pay them. And if you don't have the money, then set up a solid marketing plan and get your money via crowd funding. Dragging others into your selfish issues, should never be an option!
So from now on, I will send all people that send me those kind of requests, to this article.
That will perfectly explain them why I refuse this kind of requests, and what kind of selfish leeches they actually are.