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But it's great exposure!
January 12, 2011 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Are you a designer? Artist? Musician? Web designer? Writer? Freelancer whatever? Then you need to know: Should I Work For Free?
posted by The Whelk (37 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *sob* HA. Haha.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:30 PM on January 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


I was expecting a single-serving site with just "NO" in 100-point font.
posted by Scattercat at 5:31 PM on January 12, 2011 [39 favorites]


Is it for an amusing flowchart that will bring lots of attention to your personal website?
posted by phunniemee at 5:33 PM on January 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


See also.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:38 PM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


What if mom is building a startup and says the piece will give you good exposure?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:39 PM on January 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


That was way more practical than I thought it would be. This is one of the better "should I . . .?" flowcharts I've seen.
posted by treepour at 5:40 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Then she isn't your real Mom.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:40 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


And see also.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:45 PM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's my damned life right there. Fucking brilliant.
posted by dbiedny at 5:46 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy crap. If I see this posted one more place I'm gonna puke.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:50 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


are you getting paid to puke? Otherwise I'd reconsider.
posted by The Whelk at 5:53 PM on January 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


Can I pay my rent in kidneys? --> NO
posted by Gator at 5:53 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thought it'd be weaksauce -- I was dead wrong. Good one!
posted by cavalier at 5:54 PM on January 12, 2011


If I get one more "it'd be a great portfolio piece!" line, I'm gonna go all Lovecraft on them.
posted by cavalier at 5:54 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also see also.
posted by oulipian at 6:02 PM on January 12, 2011


Mom is probably the only person who would insist on paying.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:17 PM on January 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've tried to pay my illustrator. He won't let me.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:23 PM on January 12, 2011


But it's great exposure!

You can die of exposure.

I know, that's an old one, but, somebody had to say it
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:26 PM on January 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Brilliant. Especially the section dealing with legitimate businesses. it pretty much hits all the highlights there.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Louche mustachio perfectly echoed my reaction, in sequence, in the very first comment. So I'm not needed, here.
posted by rokusan at 6:34 PM on January 12, 2011


The bit about "Is it for a charity or non-profit? You mean a band?" took me four years and OMGdrama to learn. Never again, my brothers and sisters of rock. Never again.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:00 PM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Meh. Depends on who you are, no? If you are a top professional, or even simply a pro, as in "you make your living from this", then, absolutely, don't work for free. But if you are not, or you are just breaking into the field, then heck yes... but entirely depending on the project.

For example, indie filmmaking is rife with this dilemma. A director/producer puts out an ad or tries to get people to work on his micro/no budget project. He's hoping for a pro. But what's in it for a pro, unless the project is absolutely exceptional in some way? On the other hand, various people who are just starting out, or fresh out of school and so don't have an extensive reel/portfolio - well, they get the advice "don't work for free!! Exploitation! Get paid!"... only if the director/producer HAS to pay, then why would he ever pick a novice... if he's paying he'd just as well pay a pro and get guaranteed results. It's always a tradeoff.

The only rules are: who are you, and what's the project. Everything else is negotiable.
posted by VikingSword at 7:07 PM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


See also.
posted by cribcage at 7:19 PM on January 12, 2011


Related:

Always have an agreement regarding post-work support (more for website than artist I warrant). Don't be providing free "oh, just one more question" or "I broke it, can you fix it?" support (unless it's your mother).
posted by djgh at 7:34 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


They forgot the option "Is it for yourself?"

"Do you have time to do it without neglecting important things (like the work you get paid for)?
If NO, then NO.

"Is it intended to be something that you and only you will ever see?"
If YES, then Wake Up Dummy, we're in the Internet Age, it'll probably get out anyway; if you're not going to be proud enough of your work to show it to others then NO.

there may be other factors, but otherwise YES.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:55 PM on January 12, 2011


It's sad how many freelancers have decided to call it quits because they couldn't make the conceptual leap from "but if I don't do this for them for free..." to "I'm a fair person, but I don't do anybody any good being out of business."
posted by circular at 8:52 PM on January 12, 2011


I have a simple rule for this, developed over years of freelancing:

"If it's not for me, it's not for free."

Meaning, if it's not my own creative stuff that I'm doing for myself, you're asking me to put a bunch of hard (and in my case, technically skilled) work into your project that you are either going to make money from or advance your career in some way. And for that, you need to pay me.

I read somewhere that in the US, there are fewer professional illustrators than there are neurosurgeons. That makes us rather valuable, no?

Imagine asking a brain surgeon to work for free. SHYEAH right.
posted by zoogleplex at 9:04 PM on January 12, 2011


organize! Oh, creators of, of, of art things and such like.
posted by clavdivs at 9:35 PM on January 12, 2011


Imagine telling a brain surgeon to "start in the middle"...
posted by chavenet at 9:37 PM on January 12, 2011


Imagine telling a brain surgeon to "start in the middle"...

Well, surgeons generally don't have to deal with this, but emergency physicians? They're required by law to work for free.
posted by valkyryn at 2:50 AM on January 13, 2011


Or, to quote some friends of mine:
* Person A: ...like we should do this just cause it would be good publicity for us?
* Person B: "good exposure!!"
* Person B: people die from exposure, dude.
That pretty much sums it up. As another type of designer (knit), I hear this kind of nonsense all the time. Even if you are only getting paid a little bit, you need to be paid something. I have a teensy tiny publishing company and I somehow manage to dig deep and find money to pay people, even at the expense of paying myself. Even if our budget is so tight that the deal is "you'll get paid when the preorders start coming in" -- the people who work with me know I'm good for it, and know they'll get paid. That corporate America and nonprofits who have far more money than I do are still pulling this shit in 2011 is disgusting.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:41 AM on January 13, 2011


Simplified version.
posted by El Mariachi at 7:18 AM on January 13, 2011


This needs a "are they in the sex industry?" branch.
posted by dickasso at 8:40 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I recently took on my first non-mom, pro-bono gig with a charity. They had to convince me that they weren't going to be bitchy about it first though.

They won me over by letting me know that they've been using the same corporate identity package for 10 years, and are in no real rush.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:46 AM on January 13, 2011


Depends on who you are, no? If you are a top professional, or even simply a pro, as in "you make your living from this", then, absolutely, don't work for free. But if you are not, or you are just breaking into the field, then heck yes... but entirely depending on the project.

The problem with this thinking is that the only way to go from student/amateur to professional is to say no to free work and ask to be paid.
posted by bradbane at 12:04 PM on January 13, 2011


and i traded my art guy some acorns and a 10$ gift card to speedway for the cover of my new book: "Comrade extension cord."
posted by clavdivs at 12:12 PM on January 13, 2011


I just got home from a 10-hour day at the office, and now I'm doing the same thing I do at work every day, only I'm doing it for free, for a friend. Not out of "altruism" or "masochism", as the chart suggests, but because the work is incredibly enjoyable.

I find that in my line of work (game and film music) the hobbyists and no-budget clients are extremely passionate and inspired, and working with them on projects is gratifying and exciting, even when the day job skews toward wall-to-wall focus groups and "Four Loko Kart Racer - Audio Cost-Benefit Analysis.docx".

This chart makes "work" sound like such a drag. I mean, I've seen Clients From Hell, so I sort of understand...

The problem with this thinking is that the only way to go from student/amateur to professional is to say no to free work and ask to be paid.

Seeking paying work doesn't mean saying no to free work. You can say yes to both, if you wish (and if you manage your time well, it may not even harm your health or sanity!)
posted by jake at 10:38 PM on January 13, 2011


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