Mere weeks after gaining a certificate to say I’m qualified as a makeup artist, friends began inundating my WhatsApp with requests. Nights out meant preparing my makeup an extra hour early, because friends and family wanted me to use my hard-fought skills to freely put their looks together – using my expensive cosmetics kit. Now as a writer, the requests continue. Creative freelancers deserve pay – we’re not helpful connections.
The Guardian reported last year, “freelancers working in the creative industries lose an estimated £5,394” yearly, working for free. The excuse from clients is simple – ‘we need to prove you’re actually qualified’. It’s somewhat plausible, as many people jump to the creative industries without the skills, experience or training to make them worth their salt.
Take social-media. How many ‘novices’ – photographers, artists or stylists are there online? Many often buy the equipment and copy big names, without having any understanding of how to market themselves or create a variety of looks, whilst honing a distinctive style.
Online, the world of creative freelancers looks glamorous. For millennial’s chasing dreams and turning their backs on 9-5, travelling and waking up everyday with your own hours and your ‘fun’ job, appears the ultimate ambition. In reality, creative freelancers are behind the scenes negotiating – not a salary rise, but an actual pay.
Not paying – suggests a brand doesn’t value your role or their company
Internships are for rich people. They’re for people who live in the centre of large cities, who have wealthy parents, and can easily afford to not earn a dime. I was recently offered an interview for an internship at a company who wanted me to work for free – 3 days a week.
They were keen of course – my resume suggests I’m more than qualified. Accepting an internship is a career move back. My only reason to contemplate, is if my dream publication had an opening, and they were willing to add to my bank balance.
What’s sickening about these unpaid roles – they demand a list of skills. If a company is willing to take on someone completely new, and have them learn everything needed to gain a job after, I’d have some understanding. However, to expect a trained, qualified person, to do your work for free, is suggesting their work is not significant. The position may as well not exist.
Working free, takes away work from experts
Whenever creative freelancers say yes to free work, they make it that much harder for someone else to get paid. If it’s easy to not spend, the temptation is there to keep that ongoing. Writers are constantly short-handed.
Changing my career from makeup to writing, I recognised I needed to write for free. My blog is not enough to take to professionals and show I’m credible. So, I began emailing online and print publications, offering my services at a timely manner. A huge percentage didn’t get back, but once in a blue moon, someone said yes.
It’s hard working for free and it’s hard to get published in general. I finally got an email last year from a company willing to pay, and my credibility has gone from strength to strength. I’ve had my work published in magazines – sold nationally and internationally; I’ve liaised with PR from organisations such as Superdrug and Tetley, and I’ve been working as a content creator for two brands.
How then, can a client still expect my services, in exchange for nothing? How can friends and family ask me to re-write long emails and create pieces, simply due to our relationship?
If you won’t work for free on the weekend, don’t expect anyone else to
No one heads to the office on a Saturday, out of the goodness of their own heart. If you are not willing to teach for free, give legal advice or spend hours lock-away to act as a ‘good friend’, don’t expect anyone else too. As a friend, of course I’m happy to give suggestions on makeup application or writing tips. I’m happy to help out. Just please don’t expect me to do what I would typically charge for.
It’s insulting and embarrassing. I once gave a friend a product I loved and received in exchange for a blog post. I didn’t give this item away because I didn’t like it. Their reaction was blasé and as though – well, it’s a free product. Actually, this ‘freeness’ you speak of, meant spending a couple of hours writing, taking photos, uploading, editing, promoting and emailing. You seem to love the gift, so I gave it to you – not for free!
Creative freelancers – is it ever worth it?
Most successful one’s out there will tell you no. The Guardian again covered this issue, with an article hinting towards exposure as an unfair trade. Clients are quick to tell you your labour will reach a large audience and look fantastic on your CV. Unless it’s a well-known brand or publication – that’s highly unlikely.
I’ve found as a writer, magazines will happily provide a good budget to editors and full-time staff, yet have zero room for creative freelancers.
Working for free gave me my career and when I feel it’s appropriate, I will still consider opportunity. With that being said, if you are heading to a creative field, please use your head. Create a strategy – research what’s required to get a sustainable income. Do not agree to an article on a new site, in the hope for exposure.
You need to know exactly how a free job will benefit. Perhaps working with a huge name or getting a specific example on your CV, will take you to the next level in your career. Think twice before you undervalue yourself, and before you undervalue a loved one.
How do you feel about creative freelancers not receiving pay? Do you work in a creative industry? Are you able to relate to people expecting you to work for free?