Would You Ask Your Doctor to Work for Free?
People love free!!
I Had No Idea How Big This Topic Was!
When I searched for information on this topic, I had no idea how big of an issue it really is! I'm talking about asking a creative person to do something for you, using a skill that they use daily to earn money - for free - as a favor - because you are you - because you don't have a budget to pay for the service - because you're friends - whatever the reason is. And if the person doesn't comply? You'll stop sending them work (if you ever sent them work to begin with) or publicly trash them and try to hurt their reputation or retaliate in some other way.
This affects not only freelance writers like myself, but also people in other professions like artists, musicians, photographers, actors, writers, editors, dancers, cosmetologists, journalists, animators, video creators and illustrators. I have a feeling that by choosing this topic, I'll hit on an emotionally charged, rampant practice.
My question to someone who asks another person to work for free, would you do that to your doctor or another professional? Would you walk in and ask them "Hey Doc, I've been coming to you for 10 years and have paid a lot of money over those years for your services, how about throwing in a couple of appointments for free?"
Free is Good, IF You Can Get It!
Effort Goes Into Providing a Skill or a Service
If you were to ask for these types of free services from someone like your doctor, I have a feeling you'd be laughed at, or politely turned away - and the minute you left, the entire medical office would be talking about you and what you just proposed and become angry, or laugh.
When I was researching for this post, I came across articles by photographers who especially seem to be affected by this practice. I am friends with a professional photographer and have NEVER asked for anything free, I could not do that!
She lives in another state anyway, but even if she were nearby, I wouldn't ask! She writes blog posts in addition to photography, and I remembered reading a post not long ago about how this is her biggest pet peeve in the photography business.
It's like the person with the adorable toddler or baby who asks you to just snap a few photos of their darling little one "as a favor" to them, because they'd love to have a couple pictures of their little doll. What they don't realize is that they ARE asking you to work for free! You have to constantly keep current with your photography equipment, have the latest computer technology, and you have to make an investment of your time as well.
They seem to think that all you're doing is pushing down on the shutter button a couple times and voila! They're not really appreciating the effort that goes into doing a job well. You're concentrating on getting a good shot. Afterwards, you're editing to make the person look the best they can, to create a photograph that you can be proud of, and you do your best to give them a good product.
I Had This Experience Recently With Writing
I had this experience recently with writing. I was doing a website content creation project. I quoted my rate, and they paid it for a while. Then I was asked to basically lower my writing rate as a favor. It happens. I've also written for a content site where you write the content without actually having a client or an assigned topic.
On this website, you choose the topic, write it and it goes on a bulletin board. You set your rate and that's what a client pays if they want what you've written. Unless you give them the option of making an offer. I couldn't believe some of the ridiculous offers I would get! It was laughable! They would ask if I'd accept a third of the price I had put on it. It felt almost like hosting a yard sale. You know the experience, you ask $10 for an item and people ask if you'll take 25 cents!
Just one time, instead of being asked to lower my price or to almost work for free, it would be nice to maybe get a bonus for doing good work? If I didn't enjoy writing as much as I do, I probably would have given it up by now!
I read another article recently that compared the low pay some content writers and even journalists and other creative people get to "intellectual slavery". Why not find someone willing to work for $4 an hour if you can get someone that cheap?! But that's a whole other can of worms. I think it's similar to companies that outsource jobs to other countries to get the cheapest labor possible.
Choosing To Donate Time and Talent and Being Pressured Into it are Two Different Things
I know that sometimes people who have a talent, whether it's writing, photography, singing, playing in a band, cutting and styling hair or another skill, are sometimes asked to donate their time and maybe even their artistic effort performing for a good cause.
This is perfectly fine, and many artistic professionals do choose to do this! One reason they sometimes do it is to get the positive publicity they get from being generous. I've seen this happen here in Las Vegas with local musicians and bands. They donate time and talent to well-meaning, quality organizations.
In return, they get a virtual storm of positive publicity on social media as well as in print and radio media. It's the old back scratching adage, I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine. It seems to work well for all involved as long as everyone is in agreement.
This isn't the type of talent donation I'm talking about here, though. What I'm talking about is those who use a type of power over others to try to get them to give their time and effort for free... or else they won't have work coming their way, or they'll get negative publicity, or their refusal might have other negative ramifications.
Another thing to be leery about is the person who wants you to work for them for no pay in exchange for "exposure". They try to talk you into it, telling you that your work will be seen by massive amounts of people and the exposure will be good for your career. I've never heard a positive story yet come from someone who worked for free, in exchange for exposure!
Besides, exposure won't pay the bills. they might start out with "we love the work you do and would like to feature it in a new project, and in exchange you'll get a lot of exposure." I read somewhere recently that this type of asking for free labor in exchange for "exposure" isn't just limited to writers and other artists! It can even happen to small business people, those who do childcare, other types of freelance workers and even those who provide PR services. It happens all over!
We Learn From Experience
Some Take A Ways From These Experiences
The things I've learned from those who ask you to work for nothing is that they usually do it because they're cheap. They want something for nothing. Sometimes we learn the hard way not to be the person who provides that free labor so they can make more money by using what we've put time and effort into creating, without pay.
You can be pretty sure that they don't have your best interests in mind. They don't have the intention of bringing you "exposure" to get you more business. It's simple economics. They want you to provide them with a creative piece, your time or a product for free. So they can turn around and make money from it.
You don't want to be "that person" and neither do I! What are your experiences with being asked to work for free and how did you handle them? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
An Interesting Open Letter From A Photographer to a Band He Had Worked With
- Last word....................on this debate — PAT POPE PHOTOGRAPHY
An interesting open letter from photographer Pat Pope to a band he had worked with years ago. The band asked to use his photography - for free - for a book they were releasing about their career.