I have expressed my ambivalence about doing work for free in the past. But in the present climate, with impending cuts and rising taxes, I thought I’d revisit the subject of creatives being asked to do work for free once more. After all, creative work is often seen as an expendable and therefore there’s every chance that people practising it will be asked to do that for free under austere conditions. Unlike accounting or legal or electrical work which are highly specialised and technical, anyone at a pinch, can take a photo. Or write copy. Or make a video. After all, all you need is a camera or a computer or a camcorder. But what is overlooked is that it is not the camera that makes the photo but the eye behind it.
So my one word suggestion to anyone who is about ask a creative practitioner or artist to do work for free is this. DON’T. It might be for charity but remember, those that work for charity don’t work for free however laudable the cause. I was recently asked by someone who works for a charity if charities can afford my rates. I told her that that is for the charities to decide and asked if she volunteered her hours there. That shut her up. Several of us give our time away for free to charities whose work truly appeals to our hearts and so please don’t rattle the charity box at us.
If budgets are truly tight, then ask a hobbyist. Ask a niece who wants to build her portfolio to cover an event. Request a friend who has always written well if he can write your newsletter. Photographers and musicians and copywriters have bills to pay and families to feed just like you. The next time you think about asking someone if they’d work because for free because doing so could lead to potential work in the future, ask if you’d ask the same of a solicitor or a plumber. Would you ask them to handle your divorce for free because it is for a noble cause? Or if they would fix your boiler as it would lead to more paid work in the future? If the answer to that is no, then I suggest you think of ways of scraping together a remuneration for the creative person as well. Because their invoice is in the post.