Nothing sums up my thoughts more clearly when people, brands and big business ask me to do work for free than the video below. Seriously, watch it in its entirety, from start to finish, and before you ask me again to work for free, let me touch on some things that’s worth noting.
First and foremost, I, like many other creatives, have spent literally tens of thousands of hours learning and refining my skills to deliver a great product to you, my most valued and beloved client. Just think, tens of thousands of hours i’ve spent photographing, filming and designing stuff that was admittedly amteur-ish junk and understanding why it’s actually junk before learning valuable lessons and building on them to create my own style and techniques that are unique to what I offer and eventually go into crafting stories that you love.
There’s two sub-points worth bringing up with this. The first is this cute little cartoon. It basically sums it up sometimes. Yes, I can design your logo in 30 minutes, but it came with five years of trial and error before I knew what works and what doesn’t work. I studied typefaces and all the intricacies that make letters and the spaces between them pop, I studied cultural, social and psychological influences, techniques and even graphic design history so I can understand what matters to you and your customers the most. I also learnt how to deliver a product in a professional manner so that the people you choose to print your logo on your pamphlets don’t have to charge you extra to fix my mistakes (and yeah, my friends in print tell me this happens, a lot.)
Also, just like any other business, I have hard costs. Those lenses that help me articulate the incredible passion that you share for what you do cost literally thousands of dollars. The cinema camera? Tens of thousands. Plus there’s software, taxes, insurance, book-keepers, accountants, assistants, travel costs plus many, many more factors that come straight out of my pocket when i’m not charging you a cent to do what I do best.
“..if you’re a business offering a product to another business, you should be getting paid.”
So with all this in mind, why do people do it? Well the misnomer is that to get yourself out there or to show that your work is better then other competing agencies, you need to do some work for free to win the people over, right?
Let’s preface this all and say that while overwhelmingly you should never work free, there are some situations where doing some work for free, or even doing TFP work (trade for portfolio with models and other creators and artists) can not only be beneficial to networking your business to potential clients but can help you continue to refine your skills and get even better as a creator. There is no golden rule that dictates when you should and shouldn’t charge, but when it comes down to crunch time, if you’re a business offering a product to another business, you should be getting paid.
Oh, and businesses, just like any other industry, you do get what you paid for, so don’t ask your creatives a discount. I don’t ask for a discount on my coffee, nor do I ask for a discount from the man mowing my lawns or from my electricity supplier. If there’s someone you know who charges less then we do, fantastic, but in my mind you’ve found another option to go with and nothing more and in many cases, you simply get what you pay for. To me, I will always work with clients who value and respect what I bring to the table. Just like any industry, price is never indicative of quality or results and that works both ways. I personally believe I offer a great product at a compelling price compared to competitors, and just like lawyers, or restaurants or even retail outlets, some may offer more for less, some maybe offer less for more, but it’s up to you to figure that out.
I write this not to rant to future potential customers and discourage them from wanting to work with us either. I wanted to write this so that if you were looking at us and wanted to work with us in the future, you should know that we value the people in our team just as much as we value earning a fair wage for great work and we hope that you share the same values too.