Don’t work for free. You’ve heard before but do you still do it?
I’m not on about charity work or doing something for your favourite club or organisation. There can be a lot of satisfaction in those circumstances.
It’s more the working for exposure issue. On a few rare occasions you might get meaningful feedback and opportunities, but if we are honest it is very rare.
Who else works for exposure?
When you think about all the other trades and professions around who else actually works for exposure? Plumbers, brickies, electricians, decorators etc do any of these people work for free on the premise of getting more work? No I don’t think so either.
Do shops lend you gear on the basis they will get free advertising? Having worked in retail – albeit some years ago – I can answer that one. No.
If you find a petrol station that will let you fill up for exposure let me know. I promise not to tell anyone else 😀
So why are togs willing to work for free?
That’s a good question. I think if your starting off or trying to make a name for yourself, you get caught up in the idea it will mean something. Your certain that doing the job will result in some more paid gigs further down the line. So you do your free job. Now think of that person (we’ll call them client 1) having a conversation with someone else ( client 2) who needs some photos:
client 1: I know this photographer, they did some great work for me.
client 2: Wow you seem impressed. They are good. I’m not sure I could afford someone like that.
client 1: Yeah I’m impressed, well decent, best part is they did it for free. Just tell them you know some people willing to pay good money.
client 2: Will that work?
client 1: It won’t hurt. You got nothing to lose.
Moral of the story: you get a reputation. For doing free work. That is going to make it really difficult to charge in the future.
Unfortunately most other people I know in this world require money in payment for services. Why? Because they have to pay for bills or other services and those people require money too.
I’m not convinced working for free when you have to pay bills is a sustainable business model.
You don’t have to work for free though.
Wait. What? Don’t work for free, instead think about working for a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Perhaps the local decorator needs some decent publicity shots for his website and advertising. Would he be willing to decorate a room for you in exchange for your services?
You could apply the idea to other trades or services. How about a few horse riding lessons for some shots of the stables?
Think outside the box. But make sure you have some paying clients as well.
There is one slight fly in the ointment. Whether the person you take the photos for values your services at the same level as you.
So what do you do?
I’ve done free work for organisations I’ve been involved with and have worked for paying clients. Sometimes I have also managed to do some gigs for a mutually agreed reward not involving money. In all cases both sides were happy. That’s the important part.
I’m in the make sure you get something out of it camp.
I also accept that can mean different things to different people.