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Food for Thought: Is Working for Free doing yourself or the industry credit?

Discussion in 'Graphic Design Forum:' started by Scry, Feb 28, 2009.

  1. Scry

    Scry New Member

    Firstly wanted to say I'm unsure where I stand on this subject but thought it could make for some interesting discussion. Secondly I found this post on another forum so I'm not claiming any credit for writing it or finding it :)

    It's a large Read but interesting... Whats your stand point on this matter??

    The Post
    Every day, there are more and more Craigs List posts seeking “artists” for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service.

    But what they’re NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be.

    To those who are “seeking artists”, let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? …none?

    More than likely, you don’t know any. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be posting on craigslist to find them.

    And this is not really a surprise.

    In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field.

    So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street?

    Would you offer a neurosurgeon the “opportunity” to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him “a few bucks” for “materials”. What a deal!)

    Would you be able to seriously even CONSIDER offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

    If you answered “yes” to ANY of the above, you’re obviously insane. If you answered “no”, then kudos to you for living in the real world.

    But then tell me… why would you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks?

    Graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person. In short, it makes you look like a twit.

    A few things you need to know;

    1. It is not a “great opportunity” for an artist to have his work seen on your car/’zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a “great opportunity” for YOU to have their work there.

    2. It is not clever to seek a “student” or “beginner” in an attempt to get work for free. It’s ignorant and insulting. They may be “students”, but that does not mean they don’t deserve to be paid for their hard work. You were a “student” once, too. Would you have taken that job at McDonalds with no pay, because you were learning essential job skills for the real world? Yes, your proposition it JUST as stupid.

    3. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their “portfolio”. They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

    4. Stop thinking that you’re giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

    5. Students DO need “experience”. But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the “experience” they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen?

    If you your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

    6. (This one is FOR the artists out there, please pay attention.) Some will ask you to “submit work for consideration”. They may even be posing as some sort of “contest”. These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by many artists seeking to win the “contest”, or be “chosen” for the gig, and find what they like most. They will then usually have someone who works for them, or someone who works incredibly cheap because they have no originality or talent of their own, reproduce that same work, or even just make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will NOT be paid, you will NOT win the contest. The only people who win, here, are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This is speculative, or “spec”, work. It’s risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely. For more information on this subject, please visit NO!SPEC.

    So to artists/designers/illustrators looking for work, do everyone a favor, ESPECIALLY yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are “spec” gigs, or just some guy who wants a free mural on his living room walls. They need you. You do NOT need them.

    And for those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world. The only thing you’re accomplishing is to insult those with the skills you need. Get a clue.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2009
  2. lauralil

    lauralil Member

    scry you contradicted yourself here, you said you don't know where you stand with the article yet you agree with everything the author of that article said! haha

    personally I wouldn't be getting paid work if I hadn't done the free work to get experience, referrals and repeat business. speculate to accumulate!

    however I'm no mug, and I don't do free work for these "contests" or such. I chose who I did the free work for, when I put the word out that I was looking to extend my portfolio. When I chose the projects i made sure they were genuinely in need of the graphic design and not some corporation looking to make money out of a student's naivety!

    Its down to the artist to decide whether the free work is going to help their career or not.
  3. Scry

    Scry New Member

    Where it says I totally agree is actually the start of me quoting the article (i got it from another forum so wanted to include what they had said) However i can see how it could be seen as that so i think i'll edit that bit out as its giving the wrong impression :) thanks for letting me know.

    I'm seeing both sides of the fence, but in your respect it does make a lot of sense, I suppose the key is finding the right business to help out who in turn will obviously help you out, i.e. Testimonials and forwarding your name ideally to a paying client.
  4. lauralil

    lauralil Member

    hey scry,

    thanks for clearing that up! haha

    yes exactly, choosing what free work you do and who for is key to making it beneficial.

    Otherwise you might as well write mug on your head (in papyrus or something equally nasty) and give away everything you own to someone richer than you. Well if you're going to give out free work to corporate nasties out to make money from you then you might as well give them the clothes off your back!

  5. Stationery Direct

    Stationery Direct Administrator Staff Member

    Made me laugh :icon_biggrin:
  6. Thinko

    Thinko New Member

    I think the key here is to only work for free if it is on your own terms. I would never do free work for someone who was looking to exploit me, but I have offered to work for free on a number of projects when I could see a benefit to me and my business. And, crucially, on projects that would not happen at all if I didn't work for free.

    I agree that design is undervalued, and working for free compounds this, but as long as you are in control of it and are not being exploited, then it can be a useful way of generating more (paid) work in the future.

  7. Ziplip888

    Ziplip888 New Member

    Hi, i have just read this and think its a great topic!

    I would say it depends on who is asking you to do the work for free. I know so many graduate designers (and ones with experience) that can't get work in the sector at the moment that certain measures are having to be taken. I gues the underlining part is to make sure that you get something back from it.

    Especially for graduates, you get caught in the vicious circle of "you dont have any experience, so i cant give you a job" but if you dont get a job how can you get work experience? Competition is so tough at the moment that people are more likely to pay for an experienced freelancer than someone just starting out. That leaves you with voluntary work to get your CV and portfolio going and in someways this is your payment.

    Obviously, where you choose to put your voluntary work is vital too as the work you will do is going to be your marketing material for your next job. Doing murals for people's bedroom is hardly going to cut it unless thats the sort of work you want to get paid for! Designing brand identity, brochures, adverts and commercial stuff is really great stuff and the higher the profile of the company the better. Imagine the kudos you would get if you could be involved with Apple (i'm sure even the writer of the original article might consider the odd freebie for that inroad and is work really worth getting hold of)

    Unfortunately even volunteering for creative design agencies can be difficult as they are so busy trying to make a profit that having a junior in the office for a couple of weeks is a distraction that they dont want to invest in as everyone is thinking of the bottom line at the moment.

    I do know a company that is offering live briefs from top design agencies across the UK for junior designers to work on at home - kind of like a virtual agency - called Creative Protege Ltd. Worth checking out, although you will have to pay a registration fee, you are guaranteed the work!

    Finally, even when you get an interview with companies now, they will usually set you a brief to test your creativity / software knowledge and this has to be done in your own time too so does this count as free work? There is nothing to stop them from not hiring you but still using your ideas and then you get into Intellectual Property, copyrights etc...If you are good at what you do and, most importantly - Passionate - then you will always be a winner long term. After all, we all have to start out somewhere!

    Apologies for the length of this one but its something i am quite passionate about!!

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