**Warning I’m About to Rant**
I get tons of emails reach day from individuals either seeking to use my images without pay for promotional/marketing material or seeking to commission me without pay. In exchange for my permission/services I will be given credit/exposure and my website will be also be printed on <insert marketing material>.
Well thats all fine and dandy, but credit doesn’t pay bills and doesn’t help develop your career or creative eye.
If you do a google search there are a ton of blogs and articles preaching to all types of artists to never work pro bono.
It hurts the working professionals in the industry
It cheapens the quality of your work
It devalues you
etc, etc, etc…
Now to my point. You should absolutely never work for just credit. Yes, you should be credited for your work. However working for purely credit is a complete waste of your time. Think about it when was the last time you saw a movie billboard ad thought:
In addition to watching this wonderfully movie, I wonder who the photographer/graphic designer/art director/retoucher/other-hardworking-creative-hand behind this ad I want to hire them!
Here’s what you should be working for. Yourself. At end of the day you want to make yourself a stronger creative with longevity. This means constantly making your portfolio stronger and better. Building your portfolio is a like a double edge sword. You need amazing work to land the gigs that will pay you the big bucks. To make amazing work you need to attract amazing talents (models, hair/mua, set designers/gaffers/etc.). To attract the top notch talent you’re going to once again need amazing work, which probably means you need some money to up production value.
When you’re just starting out money is sort of hard to come by. This is where you might think working for free and getting credit/exposure might give you a boost in creative street cred to attract talents that will make your work better.
Here’s my two cents: If you’re going to do free work don’t work for just credit and exposure. What you should be working for is valuable hands-on experience, the ability to build foundational relationships, or the opportunity to open doors for larger and greater opportunities beyond what you can currently foresee.
What I mean from the above is that when it comes done to an exchange of work we’re essentially talking about an exchange of time. If an opportunity (whose initial offer is “no budget”) comes up and you feel your time spent on the project is worth X amount of value, then you should counter offer and ask for compensation. Or find another happy medium that you can both agree on. If you can’t come to some form of agreement, then walk away from the gig. Time is something no one can ever get back. However, if you feel that in exchange for your time spent on the same gig will and can help you build a better you in the long run, then go for it.
**End of Rant**
Want more ranting? Check out Harlan Ellison’s Pay the Wrtier: