Toronto advertising agency Zulu Alpha Kilo created this video to demonstrate how absurd it is for people to ask for the advertising industry to do spec work in hopes of getting more business. As described by AdWeek, “a guy approaches real men and women (not actors) in other businesses and asks them to provide him with a product or service for free, to see if he likes it before committing to more.”
While they are talking about advertising gigs, this 100% applies to other creative industries as well – including photographers.
We’ve seen similar ideas tossed around about working for “exposure” or building your portfolio. A couple even recently tried to leverage their 17k followers on Instagram to get photographers to shoot their wedding for free.
I love the personal trainer’s final bit in the video when he asks the man if he does what he does for free. The guy responds “no” and then the personal trainer replies, “So, why do you want me to?”
Update: I sat down with a couple local photographers to talk about some of the issues relating to working for free and how to deal with them. You can watch the conversation here.
James Beals says
Thanks so much for sharing this!
Katie How about, “Madam, could you give me a sample of your services,,,?”
I’m rekindling my love of sketching and hoping it turns into something more. This is good to keep in mind!
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I’ve reported you to Amazon for spamming affiliate links, that ends your account. Thanks!
Buster Hymen says
Heres a tissue little girl. Go take a nap.
Hey buster robot guy go fuck your self.
Perhaps the next video can be asking the Congressmen and Senators if they’ll work for free…
Uh, they would work for no salary, absolutely. They can sell their name and influence for a lot more.
Senator Wide-stance says
I’d be careful asking for exposure from a Congressman. Oftentimes, it involves bathroom stalls in public restrooms. And usually ends up with charges being filed.
Musicians, I think, forget that their abilities are only valuable when they are providing a product that people want and are willing to pay for. The most successful bands I’ve been in were so-called tribute bands. While I wasn’t always playing the music I wanted, I was providing a product people wanted and was paid reasonably well. We made a whole production of it and re-invested in special effects to top it all off. Just getting a creative degree and expecting to be paid for your skills isn’t how it works, because you must use your creative skills to create something people want. People don’t actually want to pay for your creative skills, they want a product. To anyone considering a music performance degree-if you want to be paid according to your talents you must provide the products your audience wants. Plain and simple. If you can’t do that, get a technical degree and go make $25 an hour right out of school, and go play for free in your free time.
Eric Reagan says
Well said Kyle. I know so many people who want to play “their” music and are frustrated by their inability to pay back student loans on their music education.
It’s called a reel, Kyle. I used to work in the music biz, so let me lay out that disclaimer. So, you make good money playing covers … that’s fantastic. There’s a whole market for this product. But, there are musicians (and other creatives) who CAN actually sell their original music, and get paid very very well for it. And there are those who can sell their original music in the form of publishing rights (it’s always said you never give up your publishing … cuz it’s one of the most valuable things out there if you’re a composer/author of music). Ever hear of it? Maybe not. Anyway, to denigrate your own by saying “well, people want a PRODUCT” just because you make a living playing canned music (and hey, nothing wrong with that, but shit, throw the folks who can make a living from their original work under the bus in the process? Laughable.) = you’re a part of the problem. I get the sense you might be a bit frustrated being a “commercial” musician vs. doing your own work (and hey, I work as a commercial artist i.e. visual designer, so not denigrating that term per se, just in your case cuz of your misguided ‘tide). Well, that’s life. It’s not an easy lifestyle, that’s for sure. Playing covers at weddings, corp events, etc. = steady $, so cool that you can do this. But for those with talent who persevere cuz they’re passionate and driven about what they do? Nothing else compares that bring RIGHTLY compensated for their original work. And NO, they shouldn’t be giving their work away for free. Sheeeeeesh.
Oh, and btw … I’m now going back into law, which was my first career interest out of HS. IP law. In another time simply called copyright law. Why? Cuz I’m passionate about protecting the rights of other artists. The ones who put their *original* work (i.e. their heart and soul) out there.
JC Foster says
Bill Hogan says
Great concept – but I’m an architect – which is a creative profession BTW – and trust me – we get asked to do work for free constantly. RFP’s are huge part of many offices work flow, as are uncompensated competitions, and additional services a client requests outside of a negotiated scope of work that they expect to get for free.
Hi Bill. Please encourage those around you to never work for free. We rely on you, the professional at the top of the ladder to ensure that work environments are sustainable. Good luck with this good new narrative.
In the past I worked in one of the biggest arch/interior design firms out there and I can concur with Bill. It’s true that architects and interior designers get asked to work for free (or next to free) all the time. In fact, architects (along with chefs) are apparently some of the lowest paid “creatives” out there (that’s as per some study I read not too long ago). I had a conversation with some of the veteran architects in my group while at Gensler, and asked them why clients get away with this. They told me (their words, not mine) “cuz that’s the way it’s always been.” !?!?!?!? With all the training an architect or int designer (now called an interior architect in some circles) now has to go through (all the life/safety, accessibility, etc. etc. training you never had in an arch degree before), it *astounds* me that this is still true.
I work in architecture and I am constantly asked to send over my detailed creative portfolio so the company has it on their system. Some people I know have had their work taken, didn’t get the job or were fired soon after they handed over their work or divulged suppliers and client information. This really has to stop. Creative people please protect yourselves and make sure you do not work for free.
Architectural companies are expected to tender do ‘competitions’ producing free work or 3D visuals included in the package. Things really need to change. I always present my work in person and via IPAD I encourage others to do so also.
Rick Anaston says
And that’s what musicians have to deal with in the Chicagoland area. At most places, guaranteed pay is gone, headcounts at the door are the norm. Except for the bar regulars, of course, who get in for free and don’t count toward any pay for the band.
Unfortunately there are a lot of musicians in Chicago that will do it for the door, or for exposure (meaning free). They have day jobs and playing gigs is what they do in their free time. It amazes me that the people who want the musicians to work for free don’t seem to understand that doesn’t pay the electric bill. A free meal/beer doesn’t pay the phone bill. Until the guys who play for “fun” (who have a regular day job) stop offering their services for free, nothing will change.
Rick Anaston says
Yeah, too true.
yeah, but that $5-10 you didn’t spend on a meal and a beer that night CAN go towards your electricity bill ;)
Laura Barnhardt Corle says
What has THAT to do with it? Your Plumber would probably eave your toilet over flowing if you pulled that crap on them. $5-$10 doesn’t Remotely pay your College Tuition or Graduate School Loan..Don’t insult! You didn’t work your ass off in college or grad school to work for free the rest of your life. The only way you get your name out then by working for the cheap–is that everyone now knows you are a a big fat Sap and an Easy Mark.
My Favorite is when they ask me to donate my work to their Charity because that “Support the Arts.” NO. CLEARLY it does not.
An Artist is always the first asked–but the very least likely to afford it. When the Noble Charity has their Raffle–the supporters NEVER want to pay what anything is worth–It’s all abut the bargain. They neither care-nor desire to have any conception of what materials cost, studio rent, frames-or learn about membership fees so you can enter shows & art fairs, with an exhibitor’s fee on top of that. Or know that Galleries often take MORE than 60% commission. By the time these places are done with you–you are deep in the hole. I’ve considered just asking if they’d rather just root through my purse instead to save time..
I always thought–that IF a charity was to “support the arts” for their Worthy Charity Fundraiser–then they should first BUY the Art an Honorable Price–and only THEN hold their Raffle!! (I can dream-can’t I?) Only then would the Arts, the artist AND the Charity be supported & Honored. No one supports a Charity or the arts by looking at it as a bargain–that short Changes the artists!! If my artwork goes for less than what the frame costs-there’s no way I can be sustainable as an artist.. I was not put on earth to Facilitate funding every charity that comes down the block–and I usually get asked 5-to 10 times a year !!
Now I know there are Doctors that generously donate their time for nothing by fixing cleft palettes in Ghana. But Doctors make more than 6 figures-and have to donate because they NEED the tax deduction. Artists generally are already way below poverty level.
Don’t get me started.
Love your response and I totally agree! As a musician and an interior decorator, I’d rather go work at Walmart to pay the bills, than give away my talents in either area.
jack chandelier says
Or until the people that want to hire bands for their event realize the vast difference in quality between those who do it for free and those who don’t.
Stephen King always says you’re not a professional writer unless you can use that money to pay for the electric bill.
Basically, if you value your work, and the person who wants your product values your work, they have to pay for it and you must insist on being paid. While you’re working on it, you’re also eating, using power (electricity, heating and so on), and paying for the necessary materials, which all requires money. If you’re only ‘paid’ in exposure, you’re going to end up dying of exposure when you’re living in your car.
So, never accept less than what you’re due for your hard work.
Randy Hansen says
I’m a musician/songwriter who has a day job. I have no problem playing for free because I like to get my music out there for people to enjoy. I realized long ago that an extremely few amount of people in the music biz are going to actually make money from it, so I got a day job to pay the bills and engage in my passion in my free time. I’m not going to stop doing what I absolutely love doing, just because someone who doesn’t want to get a day job can get a paid gig.
That’s not really a fair comment. While you’re right, it’s important to have other income outside of playing gigs.
The bar/club/venue hires the band to play entertainment to keep customers in the bar by ordering food and drinks. They pay bartenders to make the drinks, pay chefs to make the food and pay waitresses to serve it, why wouldn’t the band get paid too?
If you want to volunteer, that’s fine it’s your time but a standard business practice should be hiring skilled workers and not expect people to volunteer.
@Jason: couldn’t agree more, mate.
Because most times the band sucks ass and it’s a gamble because people could leave your establishment and you won’t be invited back to play. Make good music and let the public be the billboard judges. Some are good, some are bad, some are just okay. Different strokes for different folks.
OK God (lol) … well, what if you go to a restaurant and have a meal that sucks. Do you insist on a free meal? Do you think you’d be able to get away with that? As the actors offering services in the vid all say, “you need to TRUST me.” Why is it not the same for musicians, then? This is why you come in for a demo, or pass a demo reel to the club owner. Called the audition process. Actors, ditto. No excuse to not be paid for offering a service – for anyone. Like the architects I know who DO get asked to do work for free, when I asked about this I”ve gotten “cuz that’s the way it’s always been.” Yeah. Uh huh. Well, time for that to change, then.
Well I learn it the hard way. Its business, not charity. This is the cost of living in a capitalist world. As long as day-job-guys volunteer to provide their cheap/free creative service as hobby, and it serve the not-so-professional business purpose, who wont go for the free stuff? More over, arts are subjective, its in the eye of beholder. Even a simple scribble can be a piece of art.
Its really hard to accept the fact that the creative industry is indeed very very competitive, where only few people would survive getting professional pay from professional industries where their core business is art. But these companies are extremely limited provided by the huge amount of talents, and other non-art business still can survive without expensive professional art (you may argue as much as you want, but you had to think HOW others think, not how you think. Had to put that ego down)
Its not a good choice to make art a living, because chances are, you wont enjoy doing art for other people to suit their taste, you had to just do it to satisfy their business need despite the design looks crap to you. Design that you think are nice might be shit to others. So I would rather make art as my hobby, a way to express myself not other people. It would be rare chance and lucky if you got to express yourself while satisfying others.
Think rationally rather than blaming others. Why are there so much of exploitation out there for “free sample”, crowd sourcing contest, “free service to update CV”, etc ?…simply because arts are not being valued in most business as they are not in dire need, plus the huge competitions and very limited jobs. As an artist, we might get offended, but truth is always bitter.
It’s called being subjective, and it comes with the territory. The artist’s/creative’s lifestyle isn’t for everyone. If you can’t deal with it, you shouldn’t do it. But for those who are passionate about it and can weather the difficulties, yeah, they should get paid for their work, too.
This has been an issue with the arts community time immemorial. If we didn’t have the arts, our civilization would go to sh**. Artists and creatives to play in important role. Truth. Now you can argue that all you want.
Michele Miles Gardiner says
Exactly, Jason. When establishments/businesses make more money with the artists’ work, they should compensate accordingly.
Abi W says
It’s people like you who damage the industry. Clients ARE willing to pay for talent, so people like you selling it out for less or for nothing, put the rest of us full timers out of work.
Amen to that!
Ross M says
And then there’s the other disgusting little practice of people with full time jobs (including paid holidays) taking leave to steal work from freelancers.
Happens a lot in my business.
I’m a visual designer (freelance) but I have to say, I see nothing wrong with a full timer also double dipping (if they can get away with it. With most companies, you get fired when you’re found out). It’s all about competition – any art – and I can’t say that this is a bad thing. It’s all a part of the scene. If in the client’s eye a full timer’s work is considered better than mine (or in most cases, more suitable to their project. You have to factor this in, as well. You’re not gonna be right for everyone. Just is what it is.), then more power to them. I’m not going to gripe over that. Healthy competition’s a good thing. Underhandedness (as in, bribes, finding out what the other person’s fee is and undercutting them, getting on your knees for work, etc.) is not, of course.
Mr Fun says
Turning your passion back into a hobby is all well and good but if you’re still performing on a professional level, all you’re really doing is low-balling everyone else in your scene.
Brian Warren says
Im just going to tell you that youre the type that are ruining the business. Some of us make a living playing… It isnt easy but for 45 years Ive done so… If you arent at it full time all the time just where is your music going… You arent putting any blood or work..
Michael Chu says
Architects are non-creative professionals? Thank you for falling into the realm of not understanding what our profession does.
You guys basically design horrible concrete boxes to alienate people because your satanic majesty LeCorbusier didn’t understand what it was to be a human being and he was on a mission from hell to destroy happiness forever.
You don’t even build the brutalist torture chambers, you enslave other people to build the monstrosities for you and you’re then paid lots of money for destroying the landscape with this abomination you call ‘architecture’ and that’s it.
And that’s what you guys basically do now.
David Turnbull says
I see that your total understanding of modern architecture comes from some documentary you saw 30 years ago. Thanks for your valuable insight.
Joe Blow says
Did your comment fall from a time warp from 1970?
Ken M says
Dude, Brutalism Friggin ROCKS!! I’m sorry you don’t understant art.
Peter Boland says
“Brutalism rocks” yea, like the rocks in your head.
Pretty much the funniest comment of all time.
Not a Real name says
“…and you’re then paid lots of money…” hahaha ohhh thats cute ;)
Alfred Webber, Jr. says
I’m a registered architect buit I just drew wall sectiions and stairwells and atr 73 am signed up for Section Eight…!
Joseph Rodriguez says
Not to worry! I’ve called the Art Police on this ass clown…
Architects are extremely creative people. I don’t think the people that created the video meant to discredit or disrespect you in anyway. They did, sadly, but their point was that people who work in skilled professions don’t ever work for free. While requiring a great deal of creativity, Architecture is considered a “traditional” professional career. Yet, most people who hire musicians, painters, etc… expect them to work for free. It’s horrible because the work that is being put into a skilled craft is utterly disrespected. Everyone respects Architects (except Mr. Nobody apparently)… you all get paid for the amazing work you do. But I routinely get told I should be happy playing just for the *exposure.* Screw that, I went to school for 5 years and earned a degree to hone my craft, just like every other skilled professional. Bills don’t get paid through “exposure.”
…However there is still the majorly prevalent issue of unpaid internships in the architectural field, similar to yours (See: http://archinect.com/news/article/133725169/aia-speaks-out-against-unpaid-internships-in-new-emerging-professionals-campaign)
No one said anything about whether architects are creative people or not – the video was made for an advertising agency event, by an ad agency, for ad agencies :) It’s great that other people relate to it but I don’t think the vid people (like you mentioned) meant to say that everyone mentioned in the video is not creative. I think chefs are creative too… but they don’t work for free.
Sadly pitching for free is extremely common in advertising… and I don’t think things will change soon, particularly since big brands are shopping around way more nowadays.
I’d like to add that like the “pitching for free” culture that exists in advertising, there is the design competition culture in architecture, which basically comes down to a great amount of work and resources expended in weeks or months for a chance at a commission and–in most cases–all for free. Obviously, there is no guarantee on being awarded the commission; however, let’s say the you the architect wins the competition, you still may not get the job and at the end of the day it was all for free.
Not a Real name says
Not to mention, that just like in Other design fields, we often deal with clients that have no understanding of how long our work takes, so we walk into meetings and they have completely changed thier mind becuase they saw something in a magazine, or TV show, so they expect us to completely change the design but cant understand why we would want them to pay more for the new work.
I’m a registered architect with my own firm, but in this day and age, I do engineering assignments (technical drawings that I learned how to do in my 1st year of studies) for the income. It’s very hard for a starting architect to find paid design assignments, those that I did are Very small scale.
I’ll top this video by mentioning that most people in my position PAY to work for a client. What? Yes: Pay. Most of my design works are competitions, for which I spend on average 2-3 weeks making material and then have to pay $125,- / €100,- to be allowed to send my work to the ‘clients’. Hoping that I might get published somewhere on a website for exposure (90% of the competitions will not have their winner built anyways, and average 200 of something entries).
Mr Fun says
Since architects design houses and other buildings considered a life goal by the general public, I feel they avoid the ‘design for consumerism’ tarring that the spec work mentality is born from. Over a decade as a graphic designer has taught me that no matter what I do, some people will still think I’m doing this for the fun of the doodle with payment an afterthought.
@Mr Fun TRUTH.
But what’s not truth is your comment about architects. Read my earlier comments. They are in the same boat as we are.
Yeah, I noticed that. An oops on the part of the vid producer/script writer but the general concept is spot on. I know for a fact that architects get asked to work for free, or lowballed, often. (see my earlier comments) And according to a study on creatives I’ve read in the past, architects and chefs (both considered creative professions and if you don’t know why, do some research) are among the lowest paid “creatives” out there.
Rick Smith says
Musicians are treated the worst. They expect us to play for free at so many functions. People don’t have a clue the hard work that comes from playing music for you.
I think you’ll fine Illustrators have it pretty bloody bad too, I won’t make an overstated claim like they have it the worse, but we also get this stigma of (your just drawing something, it costs you nothing so why do we have to pay you for it).
Well for starters drawing something is a massive understatement like saying a builder just puts things together and the CEO of a major corporation just talks about things. Second creating Illustrations to a good quality doesn’t cost nothing, it costs a lot in resources of whatever medium the artist is working in and time to create the quality necessary. Then the final point against that view is that if you think you shouldn’t be paying for it, why didn’t you just make it yourself? then you wouldn’t be paying for it right?
So I feel freelance illustrators have it pretty bad on a scale of customers trying to get you to work for free.
Sorry about that reply, just blowing off a little steam from an irritating day that this video just brought to light how stupid it all was.
Héctor Torres says
In my country ( Mexico ) , non -existent jobs as an illustrator , some people think that the graphic material fact appear out of thin air , some institutions even take material from the Internet and use it without knowing that it has to pay. and can not work without credentials to support you , it is very difficult to keep a creative activity.
The situation is very complex , and I think in many cases depends on the language you use with clients.
Derak Green says
As both a graphic artist and musician…I have to say….no, graphic artists are.
Cartoonist on Board! says
Another favorite one of theirs:
“I didn’t realize art was so expensive!”
I charge what I believe is a competitive price. Everybody want something for nothing.
On the plus side, it’s not like in education, where being unwilling to work for free is interpreted as a sign of horrible character, selfishness and a deep-rooted hatred of children.
Eric Cartman says
What a n00b, he didn’t say he was from Yelp!
Joe Shmoe says
Things I learned in this thread: architects like to miss the point and are devoid of humour about themselves.
i hope that actor got paid to do this spot.
I get the point but why do these videos have to be so painfully obvious staged/scripted?
There are more clients than restaurants. There are more people on need of plans than architects… you get the idea? When it comes to photography, it’s just the opposite. Most photographers I know are selling workshops in order to train more photographers because they can’t proper clients.
Prices are dragged down until you end-up shooting for free. It just doesn’t worth it.
Raymond van der Wegen says
I have never been in favour of spec work. I do not ask clients to provide their products for free and they do not have the right to get our product, creative, for free. They can make up their mind after the successful presentation and by the portfolio, demonstrating the strength of the agency’s qualifications. If the client cannot accept that, they are not the right fit for the agency.
Some of these “non-creative” people probably worked quite hard to get to where they are and likely did a good amount of work for free. There is nothing wrong with making money…you gotta eat. And how can any of these business owners be said to be “non-creative”…I find it amusing that “creative” people think sometimes that they have some special right to criticize or mock anyone who makes money. Perhaps the “creative artistes” who are behind this video had enough time on their hands because they don’t have a job…we often attack or mock things we are actually jealous about
You’re right they probably did do a lot of free labor at one point. Probably in school and during an internship and/or apprenticeship. However, after that period I highly doubt any services they provided were free. Yeah, I also agree, instead of non-creative I think they should have used a different term, maybe “Traditional career” or “Skilled Professional.”
Yeah you’re all just ‘Jealous’. People should be fine with getting ripped off all the time. It’s just their passion and dreams you’re taking advantage of. Silly jealous ‘Creatives’.
Your “get a job” comment pretty much shows that you don’t take “creative” professions as real jobs. You’re part of the problem.
Try being a translator.
Then we’ll talk.
In what language? ;p
translator AND photographer … guess i am a masochist … “here is a 30 page (technical) document which we want you to translate from Dutch into Portuguese SO YOU CAN PRACTICE YOUR TRANSLATION SKILLS ” . Being the ONLY translator in Belgium with expertise in the area at that time I replied: “So do you also go to your butcher and ask them to cut you a premium T bone steak … so he can practice his cutting skills???”
Imagine if Leonardo da Vinci had only ever been commissioned to paint ‘for the exposure’, or perhaps ‘for indulgences’. He probably would’ve given it all up at some point around ‘Adoration of the Magi’ and gone and got himself a “REAL” job – like whatever was the 15th Century equivalent of SEO spamdexing or subprime mortgage broking…
Actually according to record, da Vinci was an apprentice for 9 years. During the early years of that time he was essentially an indentured servant. After a few years of learning how to make and mix pigment he was allowed to work under the direction of the master artist. He did receive room and board but no salary changed hands. And even in his latter stages of apprenticeship when he was contributing to paintings he received no official credit for the work he had done. That is why when experts are evaluating many of the pictures he worked on there is a general consensus of what parts of the paintings were his based on technique and quality but it’s not documented, and he certainly did not get paid for it unless his master decided to throw him some cash. The areas of the paintings he worked on were far superior to anything else that was done even by the master, yet until he was still an apprentice.
In today’s world, he would have to pay for the privilege of learning, then pay for his own room and board during the apprenticeship and be thousands and thousands of dollars in debt and STILL be expected to work for free. Room and board is not nothing.
Voice of Reason says
Woah guys, everyone cool out, same team right?
Sound engineers are always asked to provide services for next to nothing or nothing. We have to buy tons of gear(literally) and haul it out just to help pay for our passion for what we love to do. I have literally only done 5 gigs in two years (3 weeks worth) from 30 a year because that’s the only way I can get better gear for those few gigs. I’ve never made a dime, only better or more gear. Probably lost money but don’t tell my wife ;).
Having been a musician for 10 years, i learned I could never make any money from it. It’s pretty much impossible even for a lot of more popular artists to make money. We were on the radio, released records, had press, did tours in other countries etc. So I gave up that and decided to make video games instead, while artists can get criminally low pay, and engineers get half of what they would get in a more normal job, people still get paid in the games industry…for now at least. I can see a slow decline as the barrier of entry drops, until eventually game development, like music is considered a fun hobby that you shouldnt be paid for.
The issue is, if its a job people will do out of passion, then there is always someone willing to do it for free, just because they think it will help them get their start.
My husband has been pretty lucky. He has been singing full time for the past 15 years and has been able to make a living at it. It is not easy, but he works his butt off getting the gigs. What a lot of people don’t realize is that performing is such a small part of it. There is so much more that the public doesn’t see. Getting yourself out there, advertising, going to conferences, recording albums, etc. I think people see someone singing or playing in a club and think, well this person has it really easy. All they do is sit there and have fun, that isn’t work. If they only knew!
Danimule Fernandez says
Well, if you are a brilliant songwriter, you will make money from it. I know plenty of people that have worked hard at writing commercially viable music and have procured major labels deals that way. If you build a fanbase, you will always make money off performances and touring. Of course, a select few can do it.
Oh yes, it’s the same with grantwriters. Write for us and we’ll give you a cut later. No, whether or not you win the grant, I still worked for you. God I hate folks who even ask this. It screams “I don’t value your work!”
Harry the DON says
Lots of people in ‘normal’ jobs are expected to work for free to some extent or another – be it unpaid overtime or other extra curricular activities, so I’m not sure you creatives are particularly hard done by per se. The harsh truth I think is that a lot of activities such as photography, djing, playing a musical instrument and so on can be performed to an adequate standard by countless willing amateurs free of charge. A nice friend did the photography at my wedding as a favour and was happy with only a few drinks and a modest gift for doing something that they enjoyed anyway. everyone’s a winner. if you’re talented enough in your field someone will be willing to pay for that guaranteed high quality, if not there’s always the option of being a waged drone like the rest of us and doing the creative stuff you love in your spare time… for free.
A stranger won’t do the work for you for free. And if someone does, he isn’t worth any payment. Nothing costs nothing, thats it.
Harry the DON says
my mum told me manners cost nothing. the lying fucker.
If you were a good friend you would value your firend work.
The real difference says
I work in education and have a Fine Arts degree under my belt (still practice painting when I can). Yes, many professionals do unpaid/free work. As a teacher I have uncounted hours of unpaid overtime that I am expected to do. Basically making my hourly pay next to nothing. THE DIFFERENCE IS that when I am employed as a teacher, I am still getting a base salary that I can survive off of. I have no desire to fight my way through the mess of demands in the visual arts world that wont guarantee me that pay and rip me off way more for the time I have put into a painting than the time I have spent lesson planning. Please acknowledge that majority of people in the arts really do have a difficult time. There are passions, but there are also still daily human needs for survival.
Quinn Stilletto says
I have been an artist for more than thirty-five years. I have sold well in the best (remember when there was discretionary income in the economy?) To this day, people invite me to do work on spec to “get my work out there”. My work has been out there for three and one-half decades. Every time I catch up on my linkedin updates, every solicitation for artists is followed by the word “volunteer”. I do not wallow in self pity. I knew the consequences of my commitment at it’s inception. I have NO regrets. Name a relevant stock broker from the renaissance. I am also a certified paramedic. I have done a great deal of spec work in that field with the same degree of appreciation.
I’d like to point out that artists/musicians/photographers are not only a dime a dozen these days, but due to the idea array of knowledge available to beginners, almost everyone has one of those three backgrounds somewhere in their life. Essentially you’re losing business to amateurs who can do a good enough job that I’d rather save a large chunk of money going to them instead of paying what sometimes is a vastly inflated price for you. And yes, I’ve done my research, a lot of the art jobs charge more based on the concept that they won’t always have 40 hours of work a week. I’m sorry, but I only should pay for the work I need done, not the 2 other jobs you didn’t get so you can pay the bills. I think the arts group is not used to supply being higher than demand in their profession and its killing their rates. I’d recommend having a spare craft/talent like most others do to make the rest of your money on the side.
Remember, just because you love something, and your practice at it all your life, doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it, and it sure as heck doesn’t mean it’s going to make you money. That’s the real world, no magical, happy, fairy tale land.
You don’t pay for what you get with a plumber etc. either, you pay them what they need to survive. If they charged only for the ‘work they did for you’ they would not survive either.
The difference is, there is a demand for plumbers etc, whereas artistic functions are often considered a luxury by the majority, something most people _can_ do without.
Also to the person taking about Da Vinci.
If you ever can do you’re craft as well as him, finding work won’t be an issue. Just remember that you probably won’t reach that level no have such little competition.
Nice, except the Architect you featured in the video – definitely a “Creative”.
For those of you saying, “Hey, but there are other professions where you’re asked to work for free some or all of the time so why are you making a fuss?”, perhaps the better response is to say that *no one* should have to work for free. If we all said “no”, then we might eventually get some respect for the quality of our work.
Eric W says
We massage therapists are constantly told, “Hey come do unpaid chair massages at our workplace/event/whatever so you can hand out your card and get future buisness” (this is a proven marketing dud).
And in this video I liked the old restaurateur the best.
Kim Lynch says
I don’t know how I made it to 70! Now we freelancers have to compete with third world rates. Thanks for the video, it makes the point in spades.
Custom jewelers have to sketch out pleasing designs before a customer will agree to pay for a custom piece of jewelry.
Doesn’t every field have “free” labour during the formative period?
Engineers have apprenticeships, architects/lawyer/etc have interns, consultants have gradautes/gap year students.
Until you make a name for yourself (which takes even longer in music), no-one really gets paid…
Helen Brickfield says
Everyone should get paid. I work in social media and clients always say just a few questions on how platforms work, can you quickly edit some content and on and on. My husband is a lawyer and clients think the price should change based on how long a matter takes and the results. And of course, lawyer should provide payment plans long after the work is done.
Michael Smythe says
Great – the next episode could show a creative attempting to pay the rent /power bill /supermarket with a copy of their CV! (As in – ‘We can’t pay but it will look great on your CV!)
So think about this when you discuss a project with an electrician and get him to work it up and give you a quote . . . so you can then shop out his idea to a couple of other electricians who do none of the brain work and just undercut his markup on the materials . . . Oh. and don’t forget to get 3 estimates while you are at it just to ensure you get the sh!tt!est job possible.
Oh and don’t forget to call me when you try to pull off my job and somehow mess it up and need a rescue . . .
Funny thing. I’m a Registered Nurse. I get asked by perfect strangers to look at their rashes, or other weird skin stuff, asked questions about their symptoms or their medical diagnoses and what I would recommend all the time. If the question is within my scope of practice, I answer them all the time. So this video is saying I should be charging for this service?
No. The point is that people in professions such as Design, Advertisement, Illustration, Fine Arts or Music are mostly confronted by customers who won’t paid them for their work. It’s more akin to you going to the hospital, doing your day’s deed and getting told “well, now people know you’re a good nurse” as reimbursement. When every patient knows that you’re a good nurse they’d rather be served by your new colleague because she lacks exposure as a good nurse (=works for free). You’d be in the position to then continue working for a handful of patients for steadily shrinking rates until they’re out of the hospital. Sometimes they just pay you for the final surgery, since everything before wasn’t part of their finished health (product) and thus doesn’t count as any work.
Quality doesn’t save you from this situation either. Some of the technically most proficient illustrators I know struggle finding work due to the overall situation and the competition thusly lowering their prices to compete with amateurs and hobbyists. If a customer sits in front of you and tells you “well, my friend’s nephew could draw something for ten dollars” it’s either you comply to their wishes of low rates or don’t get the job at all. Even drawing and photography are crafts that ought to be learned and mastered similarly to pottery or building furniture, it’s just that their work gets less respect as to the actual work required. Just because a master makes something look easy doesn’t mean it is.
Guess who says
What an idiot, That Greek Man in the take away shop can’t even speak like a human, what a disaster of people!
Charles Lawrence says
Try content creation. Get requests to contribute for free ALL THE TIME. So it goes. Just gotta keep hustling, moving, schmooving and grooving.
I understand that being a musician, artist, photographer etc. are all competitive (I am a musician myself). Every field is competitive. Should you give your work and time for free absolutely not. If you are not getting the gigs and you are unable to support yourself in your chosen field you need to take stock and truly evaluate what the problem is.
You must leave the ego in the hall and accept that you may be part of the problem. After competing for the gig when told that you were unsuccessful in booking, ASK WHY the other person, band, company did?
Explain to them that you are trying to figure out how I can do better next time and that you are evaluating your business. Unless they are total dips they’ll answer honestly. If they tell you, well they were willing to work for free, ask them without any sarcasm, if they were worth it? Just because something is FREE doesn’t mean there is any value to it. I can give you a bucket full of rocks, if they are quartz they are worthless, Diamonds different story. You want to be the diamond bucket that they see VALUE in. Which leads to my next point, building VALUE!
What did you bring to your interview (that is what it is an interview) that when speaking to the the person you want to hire you, tells them in a way they can understand, why you deserve the gig at the price you are quoting? Why are you worth top billing?
One of the things each of these “non-creative” people do every day is SELL THEMSELVES. Long before a person decides to spend their money they first make a decision about the person who will be receiving said money. You may have all the skill and talent of a Les Paul, Clapton, Rembrandt, da Vinci, etc. but if you can’t carry on a conversation that leads to a sale, you will be saying “Hi my name is (insert your name) and I will be your waiter today” to pay the bills. You must be proactive in selling yourself FIRST, then the PRODUCT you produce. Yes, your art no matter what it is, is a product.
So take a class in sales, get a job in sales (cars, jewelry, even retail) where the people who own the business will train you. Sales is an ART, just like every other talent, some do it better than others and not everyone can do it.
Lastly, there is a possibility, however slight, that you are just not good enough in your chosen field to support yourself. OR You are not good enough where you are currently located to get the gigs or meet the people necessary to support yourself. If you are a Rap artist and are trying to make it in Lancaster County home of the Amish, Bed and Breakfast places etc. Even not knowing ANYTHING about RAP music…I can tell you, you are going nowhere. If your desire is to really make it in your chosen artistic or “creative” field you MUST go where there is the greatest possibility for you to be seen by the people who will make a difference and be able to give and get you the connections you need to move forward. You want to act, you probably want to be in New York, LA, Atlanta and knocking on doors, Country music is your thing…NASHVILLE. Yes the competition will be greater as well no question, but the days of someone spotting you in a deli, and screaming, “that face, that face it’s perfect I’m going to make you a star…what’s your name?” if they ever really existed, are GONE. Most “overnight successes” will tell you that night was 10 years long of a lot of hard work in places they’d rather not remember…
If you believe you are that good you will not (or shouldn’t be) afraid of the competition. And if you are really honest with yourself, and smart, you will recognize when someone is better than you and learn from them. You might even want to try to work for them for a bit and learn.
Bottom line, your success in anything you choose has way more to do with you than any other factor. If you are not willing to put the work in, be honest with yourself, stop blaming other people, or what other people do, for your lack of success you will not be successful however you define it.. You will be working for free and complaining on sites like these.
I think to make the picture clearer would be to ask how many of the creative types who have a problem being asked to work for free are actually proficient at what they do? Most creative industries are a ‘lifestyle’ choice and are not seen as ‘real’ work by many non creative types. There’s so many trying to break into said ‘lifestyle’ professions that the world is overrun with them and they’re queing up to break into the industry, hence there are so many non creatives (who possibly have a greater understanding of this dynamic) are happy to ask the creatives to work on spec or for free to add to their portfolio. Any creative who is actually good enough to charge for their services know that they are and wont find themselves victims of this.
Heyme Langbroek says
Thanks Eric. I’m running a platform for crafters who offer handmade goods.
It is regretfully not surprising how many life blogs or fashion bloggers ask for free products which they then promise to expose.
And the sad thing is that quite a lot of the crafters do respond, and as long as that keeps on happening, the requests for freebies will keep coming in.
It is time to say no.
Btw: I was a pro musician (quit because of the low income, still play for free for my wife and dogs), and my wife is an architect (who quit after the so maniest low-life ran off to another guy with the pre-design she did)
Why are you playing the victim here? Take control. Nobody is forcing you to do anything for free. So if you do not want to do it fro don’t do it. And if you do don’t complain. Yeah but the competition is doing it I hear you say, okay, but that still doesn’t mean you need to do it yourself.. Come up with better solutions to to gain business. If you are confident about your quality of work you will find a way, if you cannot deliver quality, find something your are good at.
Yes! I agree! No more spec work!
A friend of mine played the piano and organ for a small church and they gave her a small stipend. She did choir practice twice a week and Sunday services and the occasional funeral. Then they decided that she “Do it for the Lord.” I told her, “The Lord doesn’t pay the electric bill”. She eventually agree to play the Sunday service for free but that was it.
My favorite “oh you know computers? My computer is acting up could you take a ‘quick’ look at it?” No. People do not just do this to advertising. It is *all* professions. My sister who is a lawyer gets asked law questions all the time. I get asked computer questions. I have seen the same with car mechanics, nurses, doctors, and so on. For this sort of profession it would not be out of hand to ask for previous examples of work. But to design something new. Yeah you get to pay for that.
Billy K says
While I understand the overall point trying to be made here I have a few issues .
First a lot of coffee shops,tea shops, and other places to eat do give out samples. Next you can also see many gyms giving people a free day to try it out. Heck even in the linked video it says TRY PRIME for Free. Next many “non-creatives ” do work for free with internships.
Like I said, I really do understand the point this video is trying to make . But a lot of people work for free. Also why are architects and frame makers listed as non-creative ?
Tim St. John says
Wow! Great vid! Right on time and pace with the start of my week.
Loved this video and the comments that followed…Let me tell you it’s the same in the UK. I do some work on a barter basis..ie.your good for my goods. In the music biz we face a huge problem, basically because the kids are turning in adults who don’t want to pay for leisure music….anywhere….it sucks and it’s OUR fault because we let that happen.
Cheap Bastard says
People are cheap and probably afraid to personally face real value.
Beth MacKinney says
This type of issue affects a entertainment or artistic industries in particular. As a face painter, I see this frequently when I receive requests to work for exposure. I don’t work for exposure. Exposure does not pay for my heating bill, electric bill, phone bill, advertising bill, website bill, gasoline bill, insurance bill, materials bill, etc.
Once, I was asked last minute to play the violin at a gala honoring doctors and medical professionals, as well as sing the national anthem. She asked if I could play “Amazing Grace,” etc. and became excited when I said, “Absolutely, as well as any other songs you would like.” It all seemed pretty routine, until she said it was “for the exposure.” I was feeling generous that day and already had the music prepared (so very little extra work for me), so I said I’d do it because I support the lifesaving work they were honoring. THEN…then…she asks for a video audition to be reviewed by the board and says “We’ll get back to you if you get chosen.” For a free gig? I was willing to donate an hour of my time because it was no problem, but I genuinely didn’t have the time to spend making a recording (there are already recordings on my website). Why? Because my schedule was jam-packed full of paid gigs, teaching music lessons, rehearsing, practicing, wedding ceremonies and weekend concerts. Because this is my job. Because I already work 7 days a week, all day every day just to make a living wage. Because I had one free hour to give, not two. Perhaps because I went to college for violin performance and asking if I “can” play “Amazing Grace” is a bit like asking a writer if they know how to use a pen.
My rate for event music is extremely reasonable and I am very accommodating, but it occurred to me that they were actually looking for a hobbyist for this, not a professional.
I wrote back, “You will be happy to know that I do not need the exposure, as my schedule is already too full to take on the additional time commitment of making an audition video for you. I was willing to donate one hour for this as I support the cause, but my schedule simply doesn’t allow for much more volunteering than that these days. I recommend contacting the students at the local high school. The music might not be as good quality, but this seems to be more along the lines of what you are looking for. Good luck!”
The event was in less than a week—not nearly enough time for a high schooler to prepare. I bet they didn’t find anyone. And I was willing to do it, too! Just goes to show that if you’re looking for work done for free, you should at least respect this person’s time and show an appropriate amount of gratitude. If you ask people to help you move, you buy them pizza. If a professional musician offers to play/sing at your gala out of the goodness of their heart, especially when you were only looking for a hobbyist to begin with, you respect their time and you don’t question their skill. It’s just inappropriate and demeaning for what you are asking.
Eric Reagan says
Great story Cristina! Thanks for sharing and I think you had a perfect response.
I’m a veterinarian. Your dilemma is not restricted to the creative arts. I’ve lost count of how many people ask me (or twll me) to do my work for free or deeply discounted because I “love animals”. And yes, we do, but we also have 8 years of school debt to pay off, staff to pay, and a building to keep open. Shockingly, yes, you have to pay for the expertise of that doctorate. But people think advice they got from a breeder off the internet is just as valid….
You da man. If I weren’t married, and straight, we’d be getting it on right now.
This needs to be said SO BADLY and I love this angle.
This is probably something gets asked of me every fortnight, 15 years into my career.
It’s a joke and now I use it as a vetting method for disrespectful ‘prospective’ clients who hold little to no value in what creatives do.
Great stuff mate – thank you. Sharing now!
The weak ones go out there and have opened the door to this, they say yes in hopes of something that never comes. The photographer or Ad or Media Agency you can trust is the one who protects their interests and the clients interests and gets paid for all they do. Clients don’t trust and want everything for free rather than letting the agencies do what they do. I really like the part about the Intellectual Property. “I do for you and you keep all that I create?” No Way!
It is called supply and demand. That is how the free world works. If there is no demand to pay you find something else to do.
It’s a very real issue, one that I’ve faced and come to my own solution on…
When doing work for free was of benifit to me then I did it for free, and when it stopped being of benifit to me then I stopped doing it for free. Now when I’m asked to do something for free I consider if its of benifit to me, very ocassionaly it may be, and I then I would do it for free but overwise no I would not.
morisfe fawoiaf says
ain’t nobody aksed you fo shi nga…
How many creatives have ever paid my full computer consulting rate, which is in the triple digits per hour? None, ever. How many “quick” printer or network questions have I answered for free, for musicians and artists? A lot. It’s called being a friend. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it. Simple as that.
I’ve never ever had a design firm do something for me for free (or offer to), ever. The ones I deal with, that’s not even a possibility. I pay them their triple-digit hourly fee, and sometimes have to throw it away because it’s useless, because they haven’t done it to my specs.
Please. People ask for free stuff all the time, it’s just the way things go. If you don’t want to do it for free, just say no and move on.
I suffer this also. And while I enjoy the humor of this video, the simplistic message of “just say no” (to anything) doesn’t work because it fails to address why anyone would say “yes.” We say yes because we are individuals (or small firms) who work in a cyclical economy. That means that it is relatively difficult to build a financial reserve to withstand downturns. So in a downturn, we become desperate. Combine this with the fact that it costs us little to provide our service (most of our costs are in equipment, office space, and other fixed costs), and you get suppliers offering to work for free. This situation is not unlike the industrial revolution before the onset of labor unions. Desperate people agree to do desperate things because they don’t perceive any other choice. When they act collectively, the system changes. You can draw your own conclusions about labor unions. But from the perspective of the worker, they do decrease the desperation. Until we act collectively (in some fashion not necessarily a union), working for free will be widespread. And shaming the buyer or the seller boils down to a recreational activity that offers a chuckle before we bunker down to work on that RFP.
As a photographer I am so thankful for this. I get asked by people all the time for photos and then they go, would you charge me? And I always nicely reply, would you pay your doctor? your lawyer? Any professional giving you a service? Okay then! Now I’ll just show them this video! haha
I’m curious as to see how these business owners responded when they were told what the video was for, did they find themselves guilty of committing the same crime? ;D
Coati Mundi says
Nicely done. The following is from a post I wrote on my Facebook page. Slightly different angle but the sentiments are kindred spirits.
FREELANTHROPIST: I merged freelance and philanthropist to describe what an artist is perceived to be. “Freelancing” is becoming a euphemism for unemployment or better yet self-unemployment. Apparently the only letters visible in the word are the first four.
For example nowadays bands have to practically pay to play in clubs while the musicians share tip jars. Actors are compensated via back end spec deals or a layaway plan in the form of deferred payments. I was once asked by a high profile charity to donate my services. I quipped that they would have to speak with my landlord. I’d then inquired if they’re hiring a catering company. They said yes and I begged to be hooked up with a busboy gig after all it beats a donut or better yet a “dough-not”.
Society in general reacts to an artist in a manner that is anthropologically interesting especially at social gatherings where there is a piano or guitar sitting around.
One day I’m throwing a party and inviting a plumber, carpenter, cleaning lady, secretary, dentist, a politician and an exterminator. I’m going to inadvertently embarrass them by quizzing them as to what have they done before, what projects they’re working on and are they famous or someone I should know. Afterwards I ‘m going to be presumptuous by expecting them to fix my leaky faucet; put up closet shelves; mop the floor; take dictation; deep clean my teeth; host my rent party and kill “BEN”. Pro bono of course.
(Courtesy of Coati Mundi Facebook Page)
Patrick R says
Haha, very well done, at first i thought it was for freelance photography (since I hear about people wanting that service for free so often)
Now I know how not to approach an ad agency (-:
This is what South By Southwest does to almost every musician and standup, except they don’t even pay later.
Good question asked here, but I would like to ask photographers: Why do you want models to work for free?
We know of famous models, but most are struggling to get by and have their photographs taken, often without their permissions, perhaps in a charity or promotional event or on a runway, where they’re not getting paid.
Then if they want a copy for their personal use and for their bio, photographers demand compensation for the model’s own image, which the photographers somehow own all the rights to make money off due to powerful lobbying by their trade associations.
Looks like everyone in this general industry shafts somebody, hypocrisy at its finest.
This is an incredibly important point to make, and I thank the vid producers for doing so. I’ve enjoyed contributing to many of the conversations going on here, and need to stop because it’s now eating up too much time. : ) But to all the artists and creative brethren out there … don’t argue over which of you in your particular art or profession has it harder. ALL artists and creatives struggle with this. It’s an old story, and you all know that. No need to pit yourselves against other fellow creatives cuz you feel you’ve been given the more raw deal. We have *all* been in that situation at one time or another. Rather, empathize with each other and work to make this crappy mindset of the ignorant go away by *educating* your clients and others who ask for you to work for free. And then, JUST DON’T DO IT! Alway, always stand up for your rights. — xo a fellow artist and designer
And then you have artists like this … http://ow.ly/XXE9r.
Nina Bataller says
Why do you think that a picture framer is a non-creative professional? As a framer for 35 years, I’m kind of offended by that.
We get that kind of treatment all the time, designers are always asking you to frame things for a discount, or for spec to do a designers show house, for the exposure. Though I can’t think of a single designer who would give a picture framer a discount…….
12 years of volunteering was not sufficient for me, but my family do not agree with me and Voila: http://www.ghenadiesontu.com/stilllifes/
Ouch. I guess framing isn’t creative. I’ve done this for five years and not a day goes by that someone insults my cost, my skills and my company’s policy on up-front payment.
That someone doesn’t* insult….
Kamal Mostofi says
I was suprised when a film festival company contacted me to photograph their festival. I wrote back to them in my blog http://kmwedding.co.uk/read-me/2016/3/30/photograph-my-event-for-exposure
Ad agencies are the worst offenders. They ask every one for free or a reduced rate and bill the client the full rate pocketing the money that should have gone to the creatives. It’s cute they made this but for the most part the ad industry is the worst.
I’m in love! As a multi-media journalist, I am expected to give up ALL rights to ALL of my work for free (or darn close to it), and am told I will not see publication if I don’t. I still put “first rights ONLY” on every invoice (and, yes, they DO print my work and pay for it), and actually had to go ON STRIKE (as a dedicated union of one) against one of the publications because they didn’t get around to paying me for three MONTHS awhile back.
When I told them I wouldn’t submit any more work until I was paid, they responded that they were sorry I was quitting and wished me all happiness in my future. I reminded them I was going on strike, NOT quitting, and would resume work as soon as they resumed paying me – and then I took it to social media. Oddly enough, they were suddenly able to come up with the vast amount of past income they owed me – $400 a month. No, there is no error there – that’s $4 hundred a month, not thousand.
Some publications even put in their submissions guidelines that EVERYTHING you send them automatically becomes theirs. They apparently don’t pay anything for the work they receive, and then expect to own all rights on it into the bargain! And they wonder why we get upset – after all, we should be “grateful” they’re interested in us at all!
And guess what? Once a freelance, ALWAYS a freelance at the lowest pay possible (heck, they’d probably charge us for the printing of our work if they could find a way). Get full time (or even part time) employment with them? What do we think we are? Creatures of VALUE?!
This video is excellent – too bad you’re probably preaching to those who are already converted. It would be nice to see some real recognition and payment for the blood and sweat we put into our work.
Drew Snider says
Ah … too true! Among my gigs is PA announcing for sports events, and a couple of years ago, I had the owner/general manager of a hockey team & a baseball team (same guy) tell me that he gets by with “committed volunteers”. His is a profit-making business. (Fortunately, University of Victoria, FIFA, Rugby Canada and Canada Soccer do pay for my services.)