Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Should I work for free?

One of the most common questions artists and creatives in general have is, "Should I work for free?" Indeed I have been asked this from many new and aspiring artists just starting their career, and my answer is always…….YES!!

This opinion goes against a the opinion of a lot of artists who I really admire who say that working for free cheapens the industry, that lawyers, doctors and dentists wouldn't work for free and that working for free makes it more difficult for artists to make a career for themselves when others are willing to do it for free.

In general, I agree. However, I still feel there is a place to work for free. The difference comes in who you work for. As an artists starting out on your career, the more work you put out online, the more eyes will see your work. It won't be long before you are offered the "opportunity" to do some form of work and you will be paid in one of the following ways; exposure, percentage of sales (if it sells) or "it will be good for you portfolio". Let me make this clear, I am in no way recommending taking on these jobs. For all the reasons above, this not a good way to start on your career. Also, if you are going to spend your time doing free work, why not do personal work, something you feel passionate about, demonstrates what you are about as an artist and tailored exactly what you want in your portfolio?

So when do I think you should work for free?

Particularly when you are in the early stages of your career, you have time where you are not working on paid work i.e. you are not working at full capacity. This is the perfect time to do exactly what you want. In doing so, ask yourself the following questions: What is your dream job? What companies do you want to work for? Who can help you with your next step up the career ladder? Once you figure these out, then you can start on your "free" work.

Let me give you an example. Say you are wedding photographer. Why not go to a local wedding cake designer or wedding dress shop and offer to photograph their shop or merchandise for their website or brochure. Offer to do it for FREE, and all you ask in return is that they recommend you to their customers, or give out your business card with every purchase? It's a win/win for both parties.

Or say you are an aspiring concept artist who wants to get into the video game industry. Why not do some fan art of a particular game for the company who you really admire? The power of social media nowadays means that is is really easy to get your work in front of the people who you want to see it.

So when I say you should work for free, it should be on YOUR terms. How is it good for you? Is it directly leading to something better for your career? As you get more experienced and regular paid work starts to come in (you approach working at capacity), there will be less and less time to adopt this technique. But as an artist in the early stages of your career, working for free, on your terms, is a fantastic way to market yourself.

That's all for now. I hope to continue these posts on a semi regular basis, answering any questions that any of you guys may have. Or just ranting about whatever comes in my mind!

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