5 Reasons Why Illustration Competitions to 'Win' A Paid Job, Just Feel Yucky


I'm annoyed. 

And mad. I rarely get mad, ever.

Now, what I'll discuss below doesn't happen all the time, with every company. Companies aren't always horrible, back stabbing conglomerates out to get you. But lately, I've noticed a few competitions pop up on social media through Children's Book Publishers and various other companies. 

I'm going to outline below 5 reasons why I think illustration competitions are a waste of your time.

1. They Are Mostly Spec Work Dressed Up Pretty
This means Illustrators are required to invest time and resources to contest with each other to win a contract. Sometimes this even costs the Illustrator money to enter. Your time is valuable, and you shouldn't be giving it away. Some competitions say in the small print that they own your work. This is not right.
Here's a great link for more info about spec work: AIGA Position On Spec Work.

2. They Can Waste Your Gaddamn Valuable Time
The time taken to work on this spec work, could've been utilised building your portfolio, working on a passion project, working through marketing, gathering more eyeballs on your socials, writing a blog post, taking online courses for running a small business or writing up an invoice for a paid job. We should be approached as professionals, like other professionals also get to be.

3. They Don't Pay The Cha-Ching Bills
Sometimes they seem tempting. Thousands of dollars up for grabs. Sometimes they give out vouchers, or sometimes they offer, my favourite, 'exposure.' They are taking advantage of you as a new creative. Illustrators offer a skill, and this skill needs to have value. This is to help yourself, and others in the industry.

4. They Suck Your Confidence Dry
How does it feel after entering countless competitions and never winning? It won't do the confidence any favours, to constantly upload your work into the void of competitions. Hey who knows, you might win, but the odds are not really in your favour. Lets tilt them back over.

5. They Serve The Company More Than The Creative (WTF?)
Once recent competition advertised, that will remain anonymous, will pick the three finalists at the end of the competition, and then gets the Illustrator themselves to fight 'to the death' on their social media, to win the spot. Even going so far as to say 'get creative about how to get your work out there, pitch to everyone and anyone, radio, newspaper, make a video that will go viral, do what you need to do to make sure yours is the winning entry.' This just doesn't feel right. All this will do is garner a LOT of attention aimed right back at the company, and leave two extremely disappointed illustrators behind in the process, where their time could've been much better utilised. This is promotion for the company, masked as a potential job for a 'lucky' person.

Can you imagine car salesman going head to head after you've asked them to give you a new car for you to try out, then you pick three of them to fight for your money over social media for the eventual car that you'll get?

How about at the supermarket, you pitch to the cashier to give you all the groceries for free, then the brands in your cart have to fight it out over social media for you to buy them?

You kinda see what I mean?

Competitions 'feel' like you're making something for a company. Like a 'real' job. But they are using you to get cheap work, and gain more audience on their brand. Do it for yourself, not for them.

Yes, I know, competitions aren't all that bad. Some can be fantastic (if you win!), and you could make a great piece for the portfolio in the end. But what I'm mainly saying is, be careful, read the fine print and don't let anyone else tell you you aren't good enough. Ever.