What to do if you're in a "Bad" arts co-op?
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Thread: What to do if you're in a "Bad" arts co-op?

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    What to do if you're in a "Bad" arts co-op?

    Edit: Thanks to those with helpful advice. I suppose I have a step by step course of action.

    -----

    Hi, I don't know where else to put this thread.

    I'm an art student in college, wanting to do game art. I was hired by a startup for a game artist job.
    Except it wasn't a job, because I wasn't getting paid. They said they would eventually be able to pay, great exposure, etc. I was just excited to get a foot in the door. We did a few games with my artwork in them. To be fair, no one else in the company is getting paid atm, because... startup.

    I did read that thread at the top of the forum about working for free.

    Naiive, I kinda know, but this was my first job. They're all nice people but I need to just... get out of this situation. They want I should make more game art though. There is a contract. The contract has technically expired. I have been with them a little over a year.

    I'm wondering: How do I gracefully get out of this? I tend to be awkward at these situations and I don't want to be, please help! I would like to take internships and co-ops at other more established companies. I don't want any "owed pay", I just want to get out of this situation. I feel... I've made a bit of a mess.
    I sent an email to the head of the startup, but didn't get a response. Every day that goes by gets me nervous.


    Thank you for any help you are willing to provide.

    Last edited by magnoliafan; November 1st, 2012 at 11:29 PM.
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    Just write or call the boss telling you're grateful for the opportunity and have learned a lot (if you don't want to offend anyone), but that unfortunately you no longer have time dedicate to making graphics for them. Maybe offer to finish if you have something unfinished on the table, or otherwise just say you can't participate in further projects. No need to explain further, that's it. If they whine just say you're sorry for the inconvenience but that's how things stand. Great practice when leaving jobs in general is not to complain about anything, and just state personal reasons for why you are leaving and thank them for the experience.

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    I don't know how well various companies are connected to one another. You should indeed try to get out as gracefully as possible, in order not to have your current employer bad-mouth you behind your back and negatively influencing the rest of your career. Since you did the job specifically to get some experience, you want to be in a position to put that experience on your CV without having to feat that a prospective employer is going to phone your present one to find out whether you really have that experience and whether you were any good.

    You have my sympathy: I am currently in a (non-art) job that I like tremendously but pays so little that I don't know if I'll be able to afford to keep on doing it. Perhaps you should try to talk to the person in charge face to face? Tell him that you absolutely love the job but can simply no longer afford to keep on working for free?

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    First, stop calling it a job because it isn't one. You can't have a contract that has you do work for free, that is just stupidity. It's not legally binding. Contracts can't violate employment law so tell them to take a hike. Learn your lesson and don't work for free, ever. Show some respect for yourself and the profession or get out of art and go stink up another profession.

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    Yeah, I mean...I don't have a lot of experience with un-paid internships, but however you slice it it sounds like you have more than done what you set out to do.
    Don't make a huge effort to burn any bridges or anything, but you also don't even need to be nice about it - just professional.

    "Thank you for helping me expand my knowledge in this field, but I must move on to other goals"
    Done.

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    What are they giving you to hold up their end of a "contract"? Experience and fun are not legal binders.

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    Thank you for your detailed response.
    Is good advice.
    I will try again in contacting them. I haven't done anything for this company lately, and I haven't heard from them. I still have my items there.
    The biggest obstacle atm is I was forced to take a semester off and they're in another state (down the street from my school). Meeting face to face is some what difficult at the moment, but I will definitely work something out.

    @blogmatrix: Yes, I definitely want to work on getting gracefully out of this situation, thanks. I wonder if it would still be ok to use them on my resume? I just don't have any other gigs, jobs, or projects outside of school.
    The person in charge did offer stipends till the company got off its feet. I asked my guidance counselor about this, but she didn't give me advice on exactly WHAT to say, just that I needed to get out of this situation. Good luck with your job though. Its unfortunate.

    @Dusty: Thank you as well. Professional is what I'm looking to do in this situation, I mean, its at least a learning opportunity even though I made a mistake. The thing is, I got to this company from a school job fair, and its listed in the school's list of regular companies.

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    My answer when someone wants me to work for free is usually along the lines of:"Well that's interesting but I can't work for free, I have actual paying work to do, please get in touch when you have an art budget."

    Edit: and whether or not you parted with them in good terms or not, if they published games with your art in them 1) your name should be in the credits 2) you can put them in your resume.

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    Thanks for your response.

    There weren't too many opportunities in arts at all (especially for my school and my area), so I was looking for an internship-job, something I could put on a resume, since I had read that it is very hard to get into the games industry. I was hasty in joining them.
    They said they would pay me in software and eventually a salary, as well as stock in the company. To be fair, their apps are selling fairly well right now. However, I want to pursue new opportunities and move on.

    My name is in the credits and I plan to put these games on my resume.

    -----------------

    I want to know if I can maintain this as a reference in future applications, and if it would be ok. I am aware I made a mistake. I am trying to be professional about it, as I don't want a bad reputation in that region. I am just asking how to proceed because I am unsure.
    I'm not particularly looking for reprimands, because I already know I made a mistake.

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    Print out a polite and impersonal letter of resignation citing a wish to pursue other opportunities, put it in an envelope, make your way to this other state, pick up your stuff and hand this letter to whoever takes those things. Bam, you're done. Annoying, but every day that passes makes it more likely that your stuff will be living in a landfill soon, assuming it isn't already.

    If you don't want your stuff back, mail the letter.

    If you have any doubts about whether these people would provide a good reference for you, don't use them for that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by magnoliafan View Post
    Thanks for your response.

    There weren't too many opportunities in arts at all (especially for my school and my area), so I was looking for an internship-job, something I could put on a resume, since I had read that it is very hard to get into the games industry. I was hasty in joining them.
    They said they would pay me in software and eventually a salary, as well as stock in the company. To be fair, their apps are selling fairly well right now. However, I want to pursue new opportunities and move on.

    My name is in the credits and I plan to put these games on my resume
    The question is did you receive anything? If they said they would pay you in software, eventual salary, and company stock then at the very least they owe you some fully licensed software and some kind of written guarantee of stock ownership. That's even with you quitting. It really sounds like they were taking advantage of you under the guise of an internship.

    I don't know why so many people think interns are free. Maybe it's just an art field thing, but when I was an intern at Harvard Medical (10yrs ago) I at least got $12/hr.

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    There are plenty of unpaid internships. The thing is internship does not equal working for free. If it did, everybody would be getting as many interns as they could. See, an intern requires training and supervision, the company offering the internship is responsible for providing a learning environment as well as a working environment. In my experience, interns are a high maintenance bunch. If a company does not have professionals around to take charge of the interns and train them on the job, they have no business offering internships, because they are looking for volunteers, not for interns.

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    Unpaid Intern Regulations

    If people would just read the law for Interns (in America) you will see if you work in America, a company is not allowed to benefit from the intern and the intern is not to do any work that replaces a paid worker if that happens the company is in violation of federal law.

    Employers can avoid wage violations for using unpaid interns by meeting six requirements. The Department of Labor takes the position that an employer must meet all of these requirements to keep its unpaid internships legal.

    1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.

    The more an internship provides an individual with skills that are transferrable to other employers or industries, rather than the employer’s own operations, the more likely it will be viewed as training. Similarly, when an internship is structured around a classroom or academic experience, as opposed to an employer’s actual operations, it is more likely to be viewed as an extension of the intern’s educational experience. To meet this requirement, employers could allow interns to observe different department and employee functions within the organization, regularly speak to interns about the business in a classroom-type setting, or create projects for interns that simulate (but do not involve) the actual work of the business.

    College internship programs that exercise supervision over students’ experiences are good examples of the type of educational experience to which the Department of Labor is referring and may be a good place for employers to find interns. However, just because an internship is affiliated with a college internship program does not automatically mean your organization can avoid paying minimum and overtime wages. Employers still must meet all the other requirements.

    2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.

    It is generally easy for employers to meet this requirement because providing an intern the opportunity to perform real world tasks benefits the intern through the development of new and useful skills. Be careful, however; employers who receive a benefit in return by using an intern to perform productive work may risk rendering their internship illegal.

    3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.

    If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to increase its workforce during busy seasons, those interns need to be paid a minimum wage. In other words, if the employer would have hired other employees or required its existing employees to work additional hours but-for the presence of interns, then the interns will likely be viewed as employees. Also, interns who receive the same level of supervision as regular employees are more likely to be treated as regular employees for purposes of the FLSA. Conversely, interns who simply observe or shadow regular employees are less likely to be considered employees themselves.

    4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.

    This is where employers can quickly run into trouble. Interns clearly derive a benefit from performing actual work for an employer, but the Department of Labor’s position on this requirement is clear: “if the interns are engaged in the operations of the employer or are performing productive work (for example, filing, performing other clerical work, or assisting customers), then the fact they may be receiving some benefits in the form of a new skill or improved work habits will not exclude them from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements because the employer benefits from the intern’s work.”

    On the other hand, if an employer provides job shadowing opportunities to an intern, under the close and constant supervision of a regular employee, and the intern does little or no work, then it is much less likely the intern will be viewed as an employee. To be sure, this approach is inefficient; however, meeting this requirement often means not just avoiding a benefit to your business, but actually placing a burden on it.

    5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.

    The internship should be for a fixed duration, established prior to its start. Do not use unpaid internships as a trial period for testing out potential new employees. If an individual is placed on a trial period with the expectation of employment following that period, that individual would generally be considered an employee and need to be paid.

    6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

    Employers can ensure the terms of an internship are clear, including the lack of compensation, but putting those terms in writing and requiring the intern to sign-off on those terms.

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    Much thanks to those that provided actual useful suggestions in how to deal with my present situation. Like I said, I was just unsure of how to proceed in this situation and needed help this. I did make a mistake but at least I know now where to go from here. =P
    I've been reading application requirements for many local game companies... they want x number of shipped titles or projects. If nothing else I learned some things about startups and job fairs... and have more professional looking pieces for my portfolio. Sigh.

    Last edited by magnoliafan; November 2nd, 2012 at 09:20 AM.
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    I don't know why so many people think interns are free. Maybe it's just an art field thing
    It's an art thing, all right. Most of the art internships available though my school were basically unpaid, if I recall.

    Quote Originally Posted by Qitsune View Post
    There are plenty of unpaid internships. The thing is internship does not equal working for free. If it did, everybody would be getting as many interns as they could.
    Some companies certainly try to build a staff of "interns"... It usually ends badly for both the company and the "interns".

    Sadly a lot of the small companies developing apps seem to be notorious for this kind of thing... Their modus operandi is to get as much free work as possible to reduce the production budget, usually with vague promises of shares in the profit after the app ships (meaning, of course, that if there is little or no profit you don't get paid.) It is not a pretty trend.

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    It's an art thing, all right. Most of the art internships available though my school were basically unpaid, if I recall.



    Some companies certainly try to build a staff of "interns"... It usually ends badly for both the company and the "interns".

    Sadly a lot of the small companies developing apps seem to be notorious for this kind of thing... Their modus operandi is to get as much free work as possible to reduce the production budget, usually with vague promises of shares in the profit after the app ships (meaning, of course, that if there is little or no profit you don't get paid.) It is not a pretty trend.
    This is a relatively new phenom, with the rise of Craigslist and crowd sourcing sites like elance and Odesk that cost nothing to post job searches on. We always had interns in the game companies I worked for but they were always paid minimum wage or slightly more than that. The way to fight this is to get the word out and to let schools know, this is in most cases, illegal. Schools like it because they use the intern positions to up their placement number percentages for graduates.

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    Mr. dpaint has put it bluntly, but yes, he is absolutely correct.


    In what other profession do you expect people to work for free?
    And don't talk about 'internships', I have a friend in an I.T 'internship' position and gets a 40k+ salary.

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    Mkay, but there is stating a point and providing useful information, and there is passing judgement and being a jerk. I think those are two different things. There is no need for the latter, as I have admitted my mistake and I wish to just get this unpleasantness over with, and have asked for legitimate help from fellow artists as I have not dealt with a situation like this before. I can say help =/= passing judgement.

    Last edited by magnoliafan; November 3rd, 2012 at 12:24 AM.
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    I was in a similar situation, except that I was involved in a paying freelance contract and was making decent money if I had had the time to do it full time -- but I didn't. It was getting to the point where I had to choose, school or freelance. The way I got out of it was to just tell them thanks for the experience, but I need to do something else right now, said I was in my final year of school (and you are in college so you can use the whole "want to dedicate more time to studies" line, no one should fault you for it), and just left it at that. You don't need a step by step plan, just a simple conversation will do. It is not unreasonable at all to say you would like to focus on college. If they plead, you can always say you have one chance for college and degree and would like to make full use of it. Again, NO ONE should say no to that.

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    yep, always be polite with the people you work with. even if they're not, or don't pay, or pay late, and make you furious, always be courteous.

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    Can't remember anymore where I got this, and it concerns musicians rather than visual artists, but it seems kind of relevant:

    Name:  Next time you are asked to play for free.jpg
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Size:  56.9 KB

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