Every time I go to my partner’s parent’s there’s a piece of paper on their fridge that says ‘should I work for free’? They are both Musicians in their own right, they make money from their talent and this always gets me thinking about this stigma in the creative industry.
Whether you’re a blogger, photographer or musician you would have been met with a request to work for free like “you can bring your camera along”, “It’s great experience”, “We don’t have the money but…” or “I can credit you”, the list is endless. Remarks like this are why it’s becoming increasingly difficult to create an art that people value. It begins to doubt your worth. For a creative, there is so much time and work that goes into the final product, that not many people realise, the practising, the research, the editing.
I’m not saying you should never work for free. There is so much tension around not being paid, many believe it belittles your skill, puts others out of business and creates excuses for sub-standard work. Others believe that it is the only way to get exposure and experience in the industry.
For me this is a grey area, I have worked for free a very long time ago, I learned a lot and gained a lot of experience, it also brought me repeat work and a loyalty. However, as a photographer you are constantly met with “that doesn’t fit our budget” or “it’s just clicking a camera” and this is just degrading, it questions their value.
With a photoshoot, you are paying for the photographers time, their skills and their product. You don’t question a Vintage Wine’s price, you appreciate the time it has matured and then the final product.
It’s important to establish the benefits to you. Be respectful of the request, but respect yourself too. How would this affect you? Would it bring you more business in the long run or allow you to progress further in an area? Also, respect someones choice to work for free, it’s their time, their skill.
Have respect for creatives, they don’t work 9-5, they’re brand/skill is their life. If you’re friends with a creative, don’t expect their services for free, treat it as a surprise if they were to offer. At the end of the day, you are providing the services, you have to weigh up the options that work for you.
How do you feel about working for free?