Why Freelancers Should Not Work for Free

Ten reasons why freelancers/creatives/content creators should not give away their work for free

As freelancers, as content creators we’re often asked to work for “credit,” “exposure” or just plainly asked to work for free. This could be considered a “reasonable” request for a very limited time, when freelancers are just starting out and in need samples, bylines, and the like. The key words here are “limited time.” Beyond that, it’s up to the freelancer, creative or content creator to decide if or when a no-paying or no-paying-money project is worth taken on, or not.

“Believe” Atlantic City, NJ. On the boardwalk. Photo by Alina Oswald.

In general, and I think for obvious reasons, nobody, including freelancers (independent content creators) should ever be asked or have to work for free. And if that’s not obvious enough, here are only a few reasons why freelancers, in particular, should not work for free:

1.they’ll be taken advantage of by their  so-called clients, and not only

2. they might end up not being taken seriously by their family and friends

3. they, their time and their work will not be considered valuable

4. their profession, their work and themselves, as professionals, will not be taken seriously

5. they will not be able to grow, as professionals, in general

6. they will not be able to afford to buy new (and necessary) equipment in order to grow as professionals, in particular

7. they will not be able to pay their bills with their work, hence, they won’t be taken seriously, considered professionals

8. their inspiration, muse, desire to create will leave them for good (because you gotta feed the muse…by paying the creative…on time, if possible)

9. they will lose their self-esteem, hope and quite possibly much more; and while non-paying (and even late-paying) clients do not care about this, freelancers should, they should learn to care about themselves and put themselves first, at least once in a while, because if they don’t, their clients surely won’t

10. they will allow themselves to be taken advantage of in more ways than one; for example, their work might end up being used, sometimes without credit or mention, and  they’ll be too shy to do anything about it, because of that low self-esteem….

Blue Door. Atlantic City, NJ. Photo by Alina Oswald.

In order to show the value of the content they create or services they provide, some creatives invoice their clients even when for their pro-bono work (for a charity event or the like, for example); they charge their clients zero dollars, but write down the value of their work, in dollars. That way, their clients can better understand the true value of the service (and/or product) they receive, for free, and, hopefully, appreciate it.

One more thing to mention: it is not always, if at all, the creatives’ fault that they don’t get paid or that they’re not offered payment when they’re just starting out. Clients should know better, too. When they do not pay for creative content (or pay very late), they don’t only crush a creative’s self-esteem, muse and the creative’s ability to grow as a professional, but they do that same thing to the larger creative community. Maybe some clients can live with that. Some, but not all.

I’d like to hear your thoughts.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

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