When, if ever, is it OK to work for free? Are you been asked to work for free? Do you really want to work for a firm that doesn’t want to pay you? If you do say no, be prepared for a backlash; you may find the company won’t ask you to work for them again. On the other hand do you want to work for a firm that demands you work without pay? Do you really want to work for a firm that doesn’t want to pay you? If you do say no, be prepared for a backlash; you may find the company won’t ask you to work for them again. On the other hand do you want to work for a firm that demands you work without pay? Here’s what you should do…
1. Buy yourself some time. Don’t answer immediately.
2. Use it as an opportunity to communicate how valuable you are.
3. Imagine how you’d answer the question if you were highly in demand.
4. Send a bill and state “Fee waived”. Use this to begin a relationship with the firm.
5. If they can’t pay you, ask them to introduce you to other people in the business that has larger budgets.
6. Consider other forms of compensation..
Source: Rhonda Abrams
Most of us assume that professionals should be paid what they are worth. Recently, however, an explosion of new publishing platforms, new technologies and economic hardship has pushed companies large and small to ask experts to work gratis, in exchange for exposure or experience.
Media companies, for one, have always demanded more for less from freelancers. The problem is more acute than ever. Blogs, corporate websites and social media have flooded the online landscape and created huge demand for inexpensive content. Now online publishers are calling the shots and demanding even more freebies.
There’s been pushback, though. US singer Taylor Swift refused to let Apple stream her album 1989 for free during an Apple Music three-month trial period offered to subscribers. Apple changed its policy and said it would pay artists during free trial periods.
And artists who don’t have the clout of Taylor Swift are turning to social media when they believe they are being taken advantage of.
When American-Scottish rock band, Garbage, asked music industry photographer, Pat Pope, to allow pictures he shot for a fee in 1995 to be used in a book with no further remuneration in 2015, Pope took his displeasure to social media. And when UK TV Company, Princess Productions, asked to use a professional DJ’s music without paying him, the request went viral.
But are there some cases when it’s okay to work without getting paid? What if you’re a graduate with little work experience, for example, or if you are looking to change careers? Absolutely, yes, say some people who’ve done just that. So what are the rules?
How valuable is the client?
First, determine if the exposure is worth the lack of a paycheque. If the company asking for a freebie is well-established and high-profile, the risk could be worth taking. After all, that name on your CV could pay off in the future in the form of future business and credibility.
Don’t assume big companies will pay
Even large, profitable companies are asking to use creative work without monetary compensation.
“What’s interesting is the number of reputable companies who ask people to work for free and I think that’s growing,” said business consultant Rhonda Abrams, author of 19 books on entrepreneurship, including The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies. “I’ve had very big, multi-billion dollar companies asking me to write for them for nothing.”
British writer Barney Hoskyns started a Facebook campaign, Stop Working For Free, after a photographer told him audio book company Audible Inc had asked him to let it use one of his images for free. Audible is owned by online retailer Amazon.com Inc.
“I suddenly thought, this is it,” said Hoskyns. “If Amazon [isn’t] paying, who’s paying?”
Audible told BBC Capital that this is not its standard policy and that the senior editorial employee involved in the exchange no longer works for the firm.
Learn to value your work accurately
“Valuing yourself is a critical business skill,” said Abrams. “How many times have you seen someone who you know doesn’t do the job as well as you (do) get better paid? It’s because they can market themselves better and they know their value.”
Work in the arts sectors such as writing, music and photography are particularly hard to assess in financial terms.
That said, if something is worth publishing or using in a public or commercial context, it is probably worth paying for.
Still, there are times when you may want to offer your services without remuneration. “For instance, working for charities is absolutely worth doing for nothing, if it’s something you believe in,” Abrams said.
Taking on unpaid projects may also be worth it if you are trying to advance in your career or make a move to an entirely new sector, many say.
Look for support
Just like freelancers, recent graduates are susceptible to believing they should work gratis to build a name for themselves and earn valuable experience. The secret to gaining experience and remuneration is finding support.
Some universities provide training. The University of London, for one, helps graduates promote their own work, says Director of College Careers services, Bob Gilworth.
“A number of universities have started to provide business services and start-up support to students and recent graduates,” he said. Rather than turning a blind eye when students offer services for free to existing organisations, the university is telling them, “‘You can create your own (channels)’, and we’re supporting them to do that,” he said.
The university’s careers service refuses to advertise jobs that don’t pay — including internships.
What about getting a little bit creative with how you get paid? Can you make work experience ‘pay’ before you land your first compensated assignment?
In April, US blogger Skylar Baker Jordan crowd funded a trip to blog on the UK’s general election for his website, The Curious American.
He works in financial services but has been gaining more writing experience so that he can apply for paid journalism roles.
“If you want to get one of these paid positions, you have to have already published and you have to have an online portfolio and you have to have by-lines,” said Baker.
Ultimately, if you think your skills are worth paying for don’t be afraid to charge for them. If you don’t value what you do, why should anyone else?
Culled from BBC Capital (Credit: Thinkstock)