Artists, don't be afraid to ask for pay

This is a personal letter to all my fellow artists out there trying to make a living through their passion and love of their art. And to those who hire artists.

Have you heard of a saying where artists need to do free gigs in order to gain exposure? I never have and most likely neither have you. But, there's an unwritten "rule" that many artists seem to have been following for decades, even centuries. A misconception of artists needing to perform/ draw/ paint/ sing/ act/photograph etc... for free before they can get paid.

I personally never believed in this but had done my share of free gigs in my earlier career, sometimes even paying to perform! If a TV producer says, "Look, this is going to be great exposure for you, you'll be on Live TV and you know how many people would be watching?" and you've never been on TV before, chances are you might think "Yeah, that's amazing! I'll be on National TV on prime time! I'll do it for free!" But, stop and think. What about the classes you'll need to ask a fellow dancer to sub for you and won't be making any money that day. And what about all the time and money you've spent training so that you're as skilled as you are now? Who's gonna pay you for that? Are you willing to pay to perform instead of getting paid? There's something wrong with this picture.

It's going to take more than a few of us to change this misconception and mindset and it'll take time. But I'm willing to invest my time and effort into ensuring artists receive fair pay so that some day we artists can thrive in doing what we love and sharing our passion with others and not have to work 3 jobs while doing this. It's possible. And it starts with you.

So, my fellow artist, don't be afraid to ask for pay. And don't hesitate to ask for pay that reflects the value that you bring to the table. There's a reason your services were requested. Think about all the classes you took, all the rehearsals, all the time you spend continuing to practice and hone your skills. You don't have to do things for free because your time and effort is valuable.

Value yourself.

And for those who hire artists, think about the time it takes to choreograph a 3 minute show. The choreography doesn't come to us in a few minutes. We search for the perfect song and once we find it we listen to the song over and over again to decide which part of the song we're going to use, then we edit it. Then we try this and try that, until we feel the movement and the song match harmoniously. It takes time, usually for me at least 5-6 hours to choreograph a 3 minute show. From there, we rehearse our dancers and teach them the choreography. This takes at least 4 hours. Then we think about costumes. So, when we deliver a 3 minute performance, you're not just paying for the 3 minutes that you see. You're paying for all the time and effort that goes into creating that 3 minute piece. So, in order to deliver a 3 minute performance, easily it would take at least 8-10 hours. Please keep that in mind next time you hire artists.

This is one of the main reasons why I founded my company, The Unified Wolves, so that artists can continue to express their artistry and receive fair pay, never for free.

Photo by Daoudi Aissa 758143 via Unsplash.

How not to take it personally if a client asks for a discount

Well, I learned my lesson today.

I was at The Business Show UK, the largest business show in Europe with over 1500 businesses and their booths welcoming you into the massive Excel London, which hosts 17 simultaneous talks from 11 am to 5pm across 2days.

It was an awesome experience to talk to people from different industries and also to have a chance to talk about my own business to them as well.

I attended a talk by a well-known business coach and after the talk I went up to that person and introduced myself. There were discounted offers on one to one mentoring/coaching but still £999 is more than I can afford at this point. After I introduced myself, I felt like maybe it's rude to not show interest in the coaching even though if I'm completely honest, I wasn't looking to be coached right now since thankfully I have wonderful mentors in my life that support me generously with their time and knowledge.

Knowing I can't afford even the discounted price at the moment, I said, "I'm actually still a student. Do you offer student discounts?" And the answer I received was very reasonable, logical and thoughtful. "I don't do discounts as I value your time that you'll invest in growing your business through my help and there's value in that. What I sometimes do is I'll have them pay what they can now and when they're ready and have the funds they can pay the rest of the amount." (Paraphrased)

I was afraid I disrespected that person by asking for a discount and felt bad about that, but then the answer made so much sense that I feel grateful for the response I received. Because, yes! Of course I respect that person's experience, expertise, valuable advice and guidance that they'll provide. There's no doubt about that. The response gave options so that any person with any budget has a chance to receive coaching.

So, the lesson I learned today is...

  1. Set your price that reflects the value you offer through your services.

  2. Don't be afraid to defend your price. There's a reason why you set your price for that amount.

  3. No one likes to be asked for a discount. But next time a client asks for a discount, don't take it personally, because it doesn't mean they don't think your services are worth that price. Like my experience today, the reason I asked for a discount wasn't because I thought the coaching wasn't worth that price. I asked for a discount because the price was more than what I can afford at this moment.

  4. So, don't correlate having been asked for a discount with the value of your service because it has nothing to do with that. Think about it... if they thought your service wasn't worth it, they wouldn't ask for a discount. They wouldn't ask for your service. Period.

Photo by author. 

Free online Courses from top Universities

I came across this wonderful resource provided by Open Culture with a list of 1300 free online courses from top Universities around the world. The subjects range from Political Science, Astronomy, Engineering, AI, Biology, Climate change, Art History, Religion, Mythology, Design Thinking, Business and anything else you'd want to know more about.

Check out one of these lectures when you have some spare time from the link below.



Open Culture (2018) Available at:

Photo: Philippe Bout on Unsplash

Challenge your creative thinking by entering competitions

For those in the creative industry or students studying how you can utilise your creativity, why not enter into competitions to challenge your creative thinking?

Here are two sites that you can apply and get some cash to help your next project (or tuition!)

Name the ADV – Call for entries (Deadline to enter is in a week! 18 October 2018) (This one's 50K and a paid trip to London if you win)

Too busy you say?

Opportunities may present themselves even when you're not looking for them. But, getting better at something only happens when you challenge yourself to do something new, even if it may be out of your comfort zone. Actually, when you find something that is definitely out of your comfort zone, take a chance and do it! That's one of the best advice I ever got.

Enter the competitions and see what happens.

I'll be entering some myself. It's never a dull moment when you're challenging yourself to expand and grow.

Good luck!

Photo: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

The Core Essence of Giving

Cooling down from a hard day’s labor of carrying and stacking cement blocks, I sat looking at a magnificent sunset after playing basketball in a dusty field with my newfound friends. The day had been spent building houses for the people in Bulacao, Philippines with my friends from Eco Habitat for Humanity. Sweaty and still feeling the twinge from the sun on my skin, we sat facing west, watching the sun slowly descend with the sound of children’s laughter as our music. I wondered when the last time I freely ran and played just like a child. Something about this place takes me back to a time when innocence wasn’t a question, having fun wasn’t optional, and being myself was all I knew. I looked around and saw the golden sun reflecting off of my new friends’ smiling faces and contemplated the true meaning of giving.

Initially, I perceived the idea of giving as my own contribution of uncompensated time and labor. However, that definition was beautifully shattered by two sisters I shared a house with for the night. The house belonged to a mother and her three children. The father was away, working in a different city to provide for the family. Their home, a simple concrete structure consisting of a kitchen and two rooms, had also been built by Habitat. That night, I slept on a door placed on the concrete floor, which the townspeople had brought with the hopes of increasing my comfort of spending the night on the bare floor. They had no furniture apart from a shelf with a small television and, just below, was a teddy bear carefully encased. The next day, I complemented the younger sister on the teddy bear, which had been coincidentally made by her sister. After a slight pause the girl told me to take it. She would ask her sister, but she was sure she would say yes. I politely refused, as I did not wish to take away the only toy they had. But the sisters were adamant, and as I accepted the gift, I realized I had just experienced the embodiment of giving in its truest form.

They had only the basic living essentials and yet, they gave freely. My encounter with the two sisters redefined the meaning of giving. It is easy to be generous when one has an ample amount to give, but true giving is when one gives without reservation, even if that is the last thing they had in their possession. Did I possess the capacity to do so? No. But to witness the act of giving in its purest form was an enlightening experience.


-This was a piece written by Rebecca Imaizumi for the World Nomads Essay competition in 2016 in the category titled, "A local encounter I'll never forget".

Photo by ever wild⚘ on Unsplash