GOOD

Here’s What ‘Free’ Art Actually Costs

Doing the math on likes and shares

Should art be free? As more and more people use the internet to champion their creative work and amass “tribes” of fans, the expectation of free that internet culture perpetuates risks hurting the creator. It always feels good to be recognized, appreciated, and adored for your creativity and to have hundreds, thousands, millions of people sharing your work and liking it. But, even when a creator does manage to accumulate attention, it doesn’t necessarily equate to earnings.

Compliments do not pay rent. Attention does not keep the electricity company from wanting payment. And likes—unless they’re sponsored—do not put food on the table. As a writer and designer, I have collected 70,000 followers across my social channels. People would assume I’m flushed with cash, but the equation doesn’t often go in that direction. I make a comfortable living, but that’s a result of working hard for my clients and has little to do with my social media following. Just because you have followers does not mean you’re making money—and if you want to make money, you have to sell something to your followers. I sell online workshops, and I want to sell a product line, but I couldn’t live entirely off my writing at this point, and I am fortunate to have other consistent sources of income.

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Money

Growing up, my mom had one basic tenet when it came to marriage, dating, and feminism: “Jamie, make your own money so you never have to ask a man for the things you want.”

She gave me this advice so many times that it became my mantra and something that dictated my dating behavior for years. I wasn’t attracted to men with money. In fact, I was mostly repulsed by them. I was also repulsed by the idea that I should be attracted to a man because of his money. I had no desire to be supported, and so, instead of focusing on men, I focused on my career. My fallback plan was me, not a man. And although we’ve progressed beyond women solely being relegated to being housewives, it was still clear to me that the expectation for women was to find a man with a good salary and a good job who would provide. Men had to provide. It was biology. Right?

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Money