And here is the letter that was sent for anyone's information:
In response to your request here is a brief summary of my opposition to Elance.com. In a way, it is a lot like the illustration stock sites that were created seven years ago and now have a tremendous presence on the web and in sourcebooks. Many felt at the time that a company like the Stock Illustration Source(www.sisstock.com
), was a good idea but only now they are feeling the ill effects of companies that offered a little extra money and a way to get their feet into the door. Many illustrators have seen work disappear as a company that was created as a secondary market came in and became the primary market by dumping low priced images on the market. Most illustrators like photographers before them have seen prices fall considerably.
One case I wanted to bring up about how ruthless these companies have become, was on an artist art-talk web site (www.theispot.com
) where one illustrator was talking about receiving low stock sales from the SIS company. This companyís chairman felt the need to post the entire sales figures of that artist for anyone and everyone to read. In effect he published one of his employees personal financial figures, and there was nothing that illustrator could do about it because of the strong financial backing this company has now accumulated. I will send you a printout of that particular story if you want or I can fax it.
Also I have no copy of the emails from the owner of Elance left on my computer, but in effect he removed my postings because he felt that I was competition and thus was using his site to promote myself. I was able to get something on about pricing but nothing about going to the Graphics Artists Guild (www.gag.org
), my site to download that PDF file or to the Ispot site. My site has a PDF file that has an issue of The Illustrators News that can be downloaded for free.
It is: http://www.tiac.net/users/kendub/front%20page/frontpage.html
In that issue is the story I just described as well as another issue about domain names being bought of famous illustrators and used by another web site www.stockart.com
to bring clients to this site. I know there is nothing illegal but this is what is happening to freelancers and what we are now dealing with as technology makes it easier for anyone both good and bad to get a piece of the pie. Thus an inordinate number of small companies now offer services that they feel will/might help.
But in my case illustrators are finding many carpetbaggers and few visionaries, with get rich quick schemes that are noble in ideas but not well thought out and are damaging in the long run.
(Here are my comments)
As new technology is created it brings along its share of good and bad. In the case of Elance.com, mark this down as one of the worst ideas for professional illustrators to come along since illustration stock-houses. Sold to free-lancers as a way to get work in front of clients without paying large up-front costs, in effect it is doing damage by using itís members to low-ball each other in pricing work in order to "get the job". As with other ventures like a stock-house company that starts out with unproven promises of creating new markets, it destroys the primary markets and replaces itís value as the new and current pricing structure.
At Elance price is the main focus and illustrators are enticed to bid against each other for assignment work. For example, a creative director presents a job and the members then bid on the job openly in Ebay-like style. In most cases, the job goes to the lowest bidder and cost is the main feature in the decision process. An artistís portfolio is not used as the main focus to promote assignment work. Instead, row upon row of bids and comments describing desperate artists willing to work for well-below market value can be read by anyone, at any time.
So, instead of rewarding the best artist for the job, the client can pick and choose from a group of bids, look at the portfolios and decide whom to choose from. In some cases they will not even assign the work if they feel there is no one on the site of value, but instead can now call other illustrators who are not on the site and use the lower fees to negotiate with.
Many of the illustrators on the site seem to be new to the field and are just trying to get their foot into the door, but instead of exposure, they are being exploited. For instance a job was "rewarded" to an illustrator for the design and creation of a poster for $100.00 with the illustrator signing over all future rights and money the illustration will ever make. In effect, signing what is known in the industry as a work for hire contract, which gives the owner complete resale value of the illustration and even allows that image to be re-sold to a stock house, without the artist ever seeing a dime.
Why is this a big deal? Because besides taking advantage of freelancers, it is also driving down the value of illustration. The example above would have been negotiated for a minimum of $6,000.00 and the artist would still own the image. Instead, companies see these low prices, think that this is the current market value and use these prices as negotiating tools against artists.
There are better and less destructive ways for freelancers to show their work in this online site and others like it.
Putting up your own site and promoting it is the hardest but most successful way to getting your feet wet. Learning about pricing from other freelancers and professionals will help stop the devaluing of work. Online sites that allow artists total control on pricing and private negotiating exist already and are used by more professional freelancers. Professional artistís communities are around that help those starting out and teach artists how to negotiate assignments. Piggybacking or creating a group site with other artists is a less expensive alternative and as successful.
In the long run it is better for any freelancer to find sites that promote artists and their work and not a company who sells work cheaply.