I Don’t Want to Die of Exposure

Some people seem to think that art is not a real job / occupation, or it’s just a frivolous hobby, and as a result, this reflects in the way they engage artists and other creative people when it comes to business.

I’ve had people blatantly steal my written, illustrated, and photographic work for profit, without so much as an attempt to ask me for permission, let alone pay me for the right to use my work.

I’ve also had people try to do business with me who expected me to draw / write / produce content for their commercial ventures for free. I always respond by letting them know that I require a fee for my work, and am often met with shock, incredulity, derision, and sometimes, even anger. They often counter that the “exposure” I would receive for my work by partnering with them for free should be payment enough.


Sadly, the vast majority of people who have had this ridiculous, (and borderline criminal) attitude have been Nigerian or foreigners who have been in Nigeria for some time. I’ve worked with foreign brands before, and they have never expected to be handed anything for free, and have always been very upfront about their budget, and paying for work promptly.

It’s always fellow Nigerians, or foreigners that have been in Nigeria too long, that think they are smart and ask you to work for free as if art does not take countless grueling hours of hard work to create. As if artists don’t have to pay rent or spend money on art supplies used in creating their work, while they fully intend to profit off the product of your hard work.

Exposure doesn’t pay rent.

This especially infuriates me because Nigerians (like other Africans) are so sorely underrepresented in the world of successful artists able to consistently earn a living off their art, and instead of supporting the hard work of creatives who contribute to our representation, they want to rob artists and entrepreneurs of what little success they have.

It’s not okay, and it makes you a shitty person because chances are, you would want to be paid for any work you do. I’m no different. Neither is anyone out there labouring to create something you enjoy or a service that benefits you. If you can’t afford something but want it anyway, the respectful thing to do is ask if you can pay in installments or on layaway, or wait for the seller to have a sale. Please don’t ask people to give you their sweat and blood for free. It doesn’t help anybody but you, and eventually that person won’t be able to afford to create anymore, so who ultimately loses? We all do.

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