Creatives: Stop Doing Free Shit For People. NowClick here to Read More
Hi. I’m Kira Leigh. I write stuff. Sometimes I paint, sometimes I record songs. Sometimes I work on my painfully slow-going “I-never-have-enough-time-for-this-what-was-I-thinking” branding consultation business.
Sometimes I play through Persona 5 for 10 hours at a time like a big huge dumb weeb nerd.
And sometimes I even make digital stuff for my day job, like branding stuff, and fancy-pants PSD layouts, logos, and all that good gravy.
Introductions aside for you newcomers of my irritating bitchy drabble, I want your undivided, fullest, most taxing, hemorrhoid stirring, vomit inducing, knuckle-white attention because I have something very important to tell you.
Two things actually.
Stop Doing Free Shit For People. Now.
Mutually Beneficial Work Only. No Exceptions.
To illustrate my first Important Thing I am Trying To Tell You, here are several (too many) circumstances that I’ve had the displeasure of being victim of or know someone who has had that same displeasure.
When I say don’t do ‘free’ shit for people, I also mean don’t do shit that manipulates you into giving money, time, effort, sanity, or otherwise for very little to no benefit. Don’t get used.
Let’s get this shit started.
- The exposure you’ll be getting isn’t going to potentially lead to any new work at all and you have a better chance of being hit by a meteor.
- The promise of referrals holds as much water as a swiss cheese boat sinking in a river of acid.
- Once you finish the project, the client asks for a sea of edits. By the end of it you’ve spent more on Starbucks than they’ve actually paid you.
- It will take you so much time to do this thing for free that it physically cannot be free or cheap at all because it’s cutting into your life or your other job(s).
- Someone claiming to be an expert wants you to give them some helpful tips, for free, and acts like a kicked puppy if you start talking cash.
- A business wants to hire you to do something they do not value, know they need, but won’t learn to do themselves ever, and don’t want to pay you one cent (social media marketing).
- Similarly, a business hires you to consult for something, wants to pay you extremely well, but the hours are limited. They then proceed to demand you go over hours. The minute they start to do that, run.
- Your relative wants you to make them a logo and won’t pay you.
- Your relative’s girlfriend or boyfriend or other needs help getting their art/music/writing/scuba diving/fantasy football/flamenco dancing business off the ground and your relative thought it would be a wonderful idea to volunteer your services. For free. Happy birthday.
- Your best friend asks you how to do something that would take a 4 week intensive course to explain and they know it. You love them, but this is inappropriate.
- You start working at a company that thinks Monday Meetings equate to actually screaming at employees. The pay will not equal the therapy you have to go through to handle some unhinged narcissist. Hard pass.
- You made a sick-ass painting and someone wants to buy it. When you give them a fair price, they immediately say “I don’t have a lot of money…” Don’t sell it to them.
- You go to show your work to a gallery owner who is eating a Subway Sandwich (eat fresh) and mashes his nasty greasy ham, cheese and balsamic hands all over your portfolio as you stare in horror. (This wasn’t about doing something for free but I needed to get this off my chest, fuck this guy so much.)
- You joined a startup and are expected to wear many hats. They have you doing billing, cold calls, marketing, graphic design, UI design, web design, and oh look, your paycheck is a month late. After you quit they still owe you (me) arrears.
- You agreed to a price early on. When it’s time to pay up, a client changes the goal post and cries about being in the industry for umpteen million years and how you’re too expensive. Your mate pays you instead because he’s the dipshit who told you this craprabbit was reliable. Lame.
- Your friend runs a gallery and you assume it’s safe to send your work over there without crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s. It’s been years. You ain’t getting that shit back fam.
- Any real point in time where you exchange time, effort, goods, or services and you feel that pit in your stomach that it was a very, very, very bad idea but you didn’t listen and now you realize you’ve been duped.
To illustrate my second Important Thing I am Trying To Tell You, here are several circumstances that are the opposite of, yet equal to, the shitty things above.
Some of them I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of. Some I have not.
Mutually Beneficial Work Only. No Exceptions.
Let’s get this party started.
- The exposure you’ll be getting is going to lead to an abundance of new work and leads coming your way.
- The promise of referrals is not empty and hollow, you benefit from the interaction.
- Once you finish the project, the client does not ask for a sea of edits because they actually read your contract. You have not undervalued yourself and neither have they.
- It will take you little to no time, or it works with your schedule, to do this thing for free. They work around your time table.
- An actual expert asks you your opinion on something with the intent of sussing you out. They become your mentor and show you the ropes and you feel like you just got a second dad or mom.
- If it’s an internship, they actually give you college credit and it feels like you’ve won the fucking lottery.
- A business wants to hire you to do something they value, know they need, and are receptive to learning, and give you opportunities to learn and grow.
- Similarly, a business hires you to consult for something, wants to pay you extremely well, and the hours are limited. They keep their promise and don’t go over hours or budget, and if they do, you both write up a new contract like boss ass bitches.
- Your relative wants you to make them a logo and they offer to pay you for your time. It’s quite unexpected as this never happens and it’s akin to seeing a real live unicorn. Better take a picture to savor the moment.
- Your relative’s significant other appreciates your help and you have the free time to help them out. They reward you with a lasting human friendship, a connection you didn’t already have, or a neat item for your portfolio.
- Your best friend takes a 4 week intensive course to explain something instead of asking you. Or at least watches some tutorials on youtube to get started, then asks you if they get stuck.
- You start working at a company that doesn’t feel like they are a hair trigger away from shooting you in the nuts. The pay is good and they don’t act like there’s no work-life balance.
- You made a sick-ass painting and someone wants to buy it. They were already expecting to pay money for it and not the equivalence of a week’s worth of allowance, so they ask you when they can actually afford something instead of wasting your time.
- You go to show your work to a gallery owner. They don’t act like a douche bag.
- You joined a startup and are expected to wear many hats. They have you doing what your job description entails and maybe a few other tasks but it isn’t anything crazy like becoming a human swiss army knife. They pay you on time, and if you quit, they pay you your arrears in a timely fashion. They don’t make excuses.
- You agreed to a price early on. When it’s time to pay up, your client doesn’t move goal posts. If they aren’t happy with the product, you discuss it like adults. They don’t act like they are your parents and you are an ungrateful brat for asking for what you agreed upon.
- You actually get your work back from the gallery your friend runs / any gallery. It might take a bit, but you do get it back.
- Working at the place leaves you feeling fulfilled and it doesn’t bother you that it’s cheap or free labor. You enjoy your time, and it’s more like learning wrapped up in fun.
- Any real point in time where you exchange time, effort, goods, or services and you feel like your time was worth it and you get something of value in return.
These are all just anecdotal personal experiences or experiences my friends have had in the creative or tech industries, or as artists. A lot of these can be solved with a good contract and sticking to your guns, but sometimes a lawyer needs to be involved. This really sucks but it can be necessary.
If you are wondering why I took the time to write this or make graphics for it; I like doing it. It gives a lot of people some kindof benefit, and it makes me feel good, so The Feeling Is Mutual.
You may disagree with some of the points above or think I’m being a jackass, but the key point here is to not feel like you’ve been taken advantage of. The key point of Not Doing Shit For Free is that you need to make it Mutually Beneficial.
If you aren’t getting anything back, why are you bothering?
Creatives (or anyone!): Stop Doing Free Shit For People. Now.
Mutually Beneficial Work Only. No Exceptions.
(The magazine layouts are from Canva.com as I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to write this and had to do it quick and dirty. Photos are from unsplash.com and have the artist’s name beneath them. If you want to repost anything here, feel free, but if you repost a photo please link back to this article.)
Gotta be mutually beneficial, right?
Stop Doing Free Shit For People cross-posted to my medium.com account