While cooking up a pathway for the meme above this text, I came to a conclusion I may have not thought of before: You do realize the more we as a collective society of artist continue to do jobs for free or accept exposure as payment, we’re not undermining just ourselves by not asking what we’re worth, we’re also making it harder on the other artists in our community.
The client can take this one of two ways: They can try to find someone else to take the exposure deal, or they can pay your rate to get the project done. The problem, is that many will try and pitch the exposure deal to others, and even if they are already out of their “portfolio building phase,” they will take the project.
Now, I understand in some circumstances, it could be beneficial. You could learn a new thing, a new technique, or get to flex a muscle you don’t typically use when creating what you create. But what if you are actually practicing your craft as your source of income, or to add to your lifestyle? If someone comes to me, looking for me to photograph their clothing line, and is a start-up or small brand, it would be a loss for me to spend time curating and photographing said clothing line with models, without being paid, if it isn’t somehow beneficial to me. I have photographed over 10 different lines, from large companies to small and local “lifestyle” brands. I’m not looking to add more t-shirts to my portfolio. What I do need, however, is a steady income.
So, say that you are the next person they contact, looking for exposure accepted as compensation, and you TAKE IT when you do not need to take it. You’ve taught this client that it is okay to pitch to multiple people in hopes that they won’t have to pay someone to get the work done. And sure, they may return, but 9/10, they are probably always going to come to you with those big ol’ exposure dollars.
The exception of course, is if you are still learning. You just started photography recently, are learning how to do portraiture, using your camera is still new to you. You are a student learning web design, so you take on a client to try and build your portfolio. But if you are a veteran of the craft, there is almost no reason you should be doing things for free unless YOU WANT TO. Don’t let someone strong-arm you into taking on free gigs, in hopes that it will somehow get you somewhere. You might, instead, not only play yourself, but mess it up for the rest of us that are trying to earn an honest living with the talents we have and love.
So, riddle me this, as most of us have been in this position multiple times: What if we all say no? If we’re industry professionals and semi-pros, who find that the project being put forth is not going to be enriching to us with education or our websites, or artfully fulfilling for that matter, why say yes? If we all start saying no, and demanding our worth, we may start to change that stigma of finding someone for free.
Don’t even get me started on haggling clients. But that’s another topic for another post.