6 Dec

If you’re an artist or work as some other type of creative freelancer then you’ve probably earned most of these already. Lucky you. You’re going to need very long sleeves to sew them all onto.

Illustrations by me, based on legitimately licensed and cleared stock images, before anybody starts with the ad hominem bitching about me not practising what I preach. I’m not sure what you’d use them for but you can re-use them if you like, provided you credit them properly and don’t offer them for sale or profit in any way, or as elements on or in any item that it is for sale and/or profit. It would be lovely if somebody with the necessary skills actually embroidered them. Provided they don’t show up for sale on Etsy.

Yes, I had some time on my hands.


You feel like an idiot because you were duped by somebody whose mendacity and/or incompetence now seems blindingly obvious to you with hindsight, although for some reason it wasn’t at the time. Examples of specific experiences that allow you to claim this badge:

You paid money to an exhibition or so-called “art fair” organiser who turned out to be a charlatan. The exhibition, portfolio site or art fair was a badly organised, amateurish joke if it existed at all.

You believed somebody with no track record, professional provenance or credible references and got involved with one of their schemes when they sent you an unsolicited message telling you that you’d been “selected” and generally making you feel like a very special snowflake.

You allowed yourself to be flattered, emotionally blackmailed or sleepwalked into a project that ultimately was far less productive and good for you than if you’d done nothing at all.

You did somebody a favour by helping them out, going beyond the call of duty, making an exception in their case… and they still shit all over you.



They “lost” your invoice. They “can’t find” any record of what they promised you. They “never received” the crucial email. “We can’t progress this until X is back in the office.” (At that very moment X is probably sitting three feet away from the person who’s giving you this line. Or they know perfectly well that X won’t be back for three months.)



When somebody told you it would be “good experience”, “look great on your CV”, that it would provide you with “exposure”, it might lead to regular paid work in the future if you just did this one thing, or they acted surprised that anybody would be paid for doing the work they want you to do… you believed them.


They looked at your proposal, rejected it or appeared to ignore it, then after what they thought was a respectable period they commissioned somebody else to do exactly the same thing (or something suspiciously similar) for less money and/or in a way that challenges their bosses, funders or whoever slightly less.

You are also entitled to this badge if an advertising agency, magazine, clothing retailer, Etsy seller, etc. ripped off your idea uncredited and unpaid, and pretended somebody on their staff thought of it.

In both scenarios they thought you somehow wouldn’t notice, or they just didn’t give a shit what you think because they rightly assume it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be able to pursue any meaningful form of redress against them because they’re a big company and you’re just you.



They messed you around for weeks or months and it was impossible to get a straight answer out of anyone. Eventually they dropped the project or it collapsed due to all the mismanagement and dithering. Most likely you had to drag confirmation of this cancellation out of them as well. Or the project limped through to completion but it would have been better if it hadn’t.


The “prestigious” art gallery was hidden in an alleyway or out in the countryside in the middle of nowhere, and nobody could even visit it if they wanted to because it’s hardly ever open.

Your work space, event venue or residency studio was full of somebody else’s junk, falling down, in a neighbourhood where you genuinely fear for your person and property, or the whole place is unfit for human habitation.

The gallery’s “high net worth” clients or “influential patrons” don’t exist or never visit the place from one year to the next, which amounts to the same thing.

The “commercial” gallery never sells anything.

Basic heating and plumbing facilities were absent or malfunctioning.

Despite how “excited” they claimed to be about your project, in practice you couldn’t really do anything due to various petty, inconsistently applied and arbitrary rules, because the people who need to make certain things happen at certain times couldn’t be bothered to do any work, because the facilities available were so bad, or for no apparent reason at all.



In addition to doing your own work, you ended up doing things somebody else is paid– and probably paid much more than you– to do.


Your main contact or somebody you unavoidably had to work with was a complete tool:

Uneccessarily obstructive, demanding, passive aggressive, bullying, offensive, volatile, or otherwise obnoxious.

Always late in doing what they were meant to, but always harrassing you about getting everything done ASAP. Generally turned everything into a huge drama.

Never available when you needed them, but somehow they managed to always contact you with something urgent the very moment you decided to clock off for the day or the weekend. Conversely they were never shy about offering unasked-for ignoramus input on subjects they know nothing about, especially your work and area of expertise.

Incapable of dealing with their workload or processing information properly. If you emailed them about three things, they’d only ever process one thing so it took at least three times longer than necessary to get anything agreed or answered.

In the habit of taking the credit when things went right, automatically blaming you when things went wrong.


UnpaidYour invoice went unpaid for so long that your cash flow was totally screwed and you couldn’t pay your own bills, employees or suppliers! This badge can be accompanied by up to five stars, representing either months unpaid (***** for five or more months), or alternatively the number of occasions when you had to waste your time geeing up your erstwhile employer in order to get paid.

Note: EU Directive 2011/7/EU, fully implemented in March 2013, states that invoices throughout the European Union should under normal circumstances be paid within thirty calendar (not working) days of receipt. A delay of sixty days is the point at which failure to pay is considered definitively unreasonable and unjustified, although creditors are entitled to charge interest on unpaid invoices after thirty days. I don’t know about any of you other freelancers and self employed people, but I’ve waited far more than sixty days to be paid by some places I’ve worked for. And my goodness, do some of them get arsey when you dare to politely and professionally remind them that you need to get your money.

“Late payments constitute a major obstacle to the free movement of goods and services in the single market and could substantially distort competition. It is a particular problem for smaller businesses, which are more financially vulnerable and where delayed payment can have crippling effects.”



  1. Alistair 08/01/2014 at 3:17 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

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