Industry: Working for free

Industry: Working for free

As an illustrator, particularly, a student illustrator, I come up across the issue of whether or not I should work for free.

There is a place and time for such things, such as if you’re working for a charity; It is your way of contributing to a worthy cause. However, magazines, for-profit-businesses or even friends are not worthy causes. They claim to give you the much needed exposure a new-to-the-industry illustrator so often seeks, but at what cost?

Working for free takes away jobs in the simple fact that if you work for free, they’ll expect others to work for free – or not work at all. These “clients” would never expect a plumber to fix their sink for free, as it’s the plumbers job. So why expect a creative to work for free? It is indeed our job and if the client needs creative work so badly, they should be prepared to pay for it and pay fairly. Designers and illustrators are skilled workers and should be treated, and paid, as such.

I understand that upcoming small/indie magazines may not have the budget to pay anyone, as often it is merely a labour of love on behalf of everyone involved. At this time, it is up to you whether you decide to work for exposure and experience as everyone else involved is. If the publication represents you as a designer and it’s something you’d read, then perhaps consider it.

But magazines with budgets, who can pay their writers, their editors, and basically everyone else… They should also expect to pay their designers. Working for free, whatever industry you’re in, does not put food on the tables.

Same goes for businesses or friends who ask you to do work. These same people expect to be paid for what they do, so they should expect to pay you. I know it can be awkward to ask friends for money, but unless they’re paying you in kind (say, wiring your house for a business card design), it has to be done. Businesses are out to make profit and often consider creatives to be out of their budget so will look for designers willing to work for free, or even (aesthethically) worse, do the work themselves in Microsoft Publisher (if they’ve even bothered to splash the cash for the software).

If people are making money out of your services, basically, you must charge for your work. Do not work for free unless you feel the service rendered to be worthy of your time, it diminishes the industry and takes away jobs from creatives who deserve to be paid for their work.

Another article about working for free – @Final Fashion

The Should I work for free flowchart.