The monetization of creative freelance work in the 21st Century.


By Christina Esposito

This series is an extension of an artist activist project I am starting up called XY Century that brings freelance creators DIY workshops to help connect and build their portfolios. My mission for the project is the inform, feature and help connect creative freelancers to help improve the quality of work and find a way to reward artists for their effort.

This poster series looks to explore creative employment habits of the mass market and how large companies value freelance artists that create for them. Similarly, I want to also encourage these artists to stay educated about the industry and keep track of how they should be valuing their work and time. Especially since creative freelancing stands  as an unregulated job field where it can be difficult to accurately value work by a case-to-case basis. Freelancers have been at the core of many creative industry jobs like–but not limited to– photography, film/production, graphics and handiwork (jewelry making) could constitute as a “creative job”.  I will try to make commentary on the common belief/implication that artists who work freelance or handiwork jobs are overworked and underpaid. This is coupled with the fact that creative jobs like graphics or digital work have a higher rate of production, adding to an already saturated visual world. I want to comment on what it means to create in a time where visuals can be traded in as “a dime a dozen” and sometimes plagiarized without repercussion (McDonalds is notorious for this).  Employers require a longer checklist of diverse skills in creative freelancers these days since most employers set out to save on hiring…why not just hire someone that “does it all”? The cycle then begins with overworking an artist who has many skills instead of hiring multiple with a specialty skill.


Poster #1–The Skillsnatch-Fairy : This poster tries to build awareness in keeping skills sharp but also being skeptical about how employers value the skills they’ve accumulated throughout their career. In this image the toothfairy represents the big corporations that try to “snatch” skills from freelancers in exchange for money. The poster is also a form of propaganda in a sense promoting the freelance artist to brush up on multiple skills for companies that don’t want to pay more than one artist. In fact, many companies commission samples from artists only to pit them against one another to maximize their budget and spend a little less on work.  It can sometimes be used as an excuse to overwork and underpay artists. “Pearly whites” represent a freelance artist’s’ skillset where each tooth is an essential tool freelancers use in their craft that are valued by the time and experience it takes to develop their work. I also wanted to use this poster as a callout to potential creative freelancers trying to breach the industry to be prepared for employers expecting all skills from them to get ahead in their commissions and job searches. This connects with my DIY workshopping idea by offering relief for creators who are too busy or uninformed about how to properly develop and exhibit their portfolios for potential jobs in the industry.

Design: Christina Esposito. Another poster in the series that challenges the tropes of a freelancer having to acquire ALL the skills in order to be valued for a commissioned job.


Poster #2–For Love, Honour and Maybe a Dollar: In order to combat mass markets and corporations who treat artists like machines, raising awareness about the modification and reproduction of their work diluting the value of their art. The exposure-matic is the mode in which some employers use to reproduce artists work for monetary gain, like using images online, in advertisements or in product development, sometimes extending the work as far as they can. A problem begins when this reproduction mitigates the effect of the original intention of an image or work. This is a callout to artists as well to stay informed about the economies they publish their work into. “Know your worth” comes from raising awareness about creative freelancers having a financial edge to them to not only protect from big business, but also benefit their own wallets in the long run.

I took inspiration from a letter Hollis Frampton wrote to curator of film Donald Richie at the MOMA in 1973. He wrote about how paying an artist for their work “with love and honour” and not money was disrespectful to his craft and devalued his work as an artist. To some businesses using the excuse for “exposure” to take works for monetary gain like for gallery showings or posting work on social media.

Design: Christina Esposito. A poster showing an employer’s attitude towards paying creative freelancers for their skills.

Poster #3–XY Workshops: This poster I wanted to use as a banner for the XY social media. It encourages artists to dabble in a little bit of everything. I want XY to facilitate a creative networking space where artists can share and work on their skills–whatever their skills may be– in a community environment. It is also a commentary on the disconnect in the local art scene happening where I find there isn’t a set hub or place where creators can get together and talk about their industry and collaborate to build skills. I envisioned artists “collecting” skills they are thinking about adding to their repertoire like in an RPG where you collect skills as you level-up. I want the workshops to try and find a solution to how to value what an artist creates and how freelancers can ban together for collaborations to be their own art entrepreneurs. Through our social media I want to inform people about local creators and their skills as well as what’s happening in the community.  

Design: Christina Esposito. This encourages artist to explore different skill sets and collect them all!




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