Creatives! Donut give away your work for free!


I once worked in the photo department of a newsroom where the public would ring up wanting to buy a copy of a photo they saw in the newspaper.

Prints were not overly expensive - maybe around $40 for an A4 photo.

But this was outrageous to some people. How dare we charge so much for a sheet of paper?!

What people don’t understand is how much skill, training, equipment, experience, knowledge and time goes into getting a single photo.

Not to mention, it’s a business where the purpose is generally to make a profit, or in the instance of my old newsroom, just to break even.  

People want free graphics, free cakes, free flowers, free websites and free photography in return for giving your business “‘exposure”. Unless they have over a million Instagram followers (don’t settle for less), then their exposure won’t get you anywhere.

It just won’t.

I know. Because I have done many creative jobs for free knowing that it wasn’t going to be of any tangible benefit to me. I’ve done it to help out friends which I was more than happy with. But it has also been expected of me in some instances - “just bring your camera along.”

Some jobs I have really regretted as I was made to like they were doing me a favour. Some people have given me little gifts as a thank you, some people gave nothing and wanted more.

It’s a real problem for the creative industry. Creative work is often laborious and the margins aren’t huge. Even in the corporate world, creative jobs are usually undervalued.

So next time you're asked to do something for free - have a think and ask if you will really benefit from doing it for free.

If you’re doing it for a friend for free because you're generous, then you’re a good person to have around. But don’t expect it to lead to more work.  

It may sound like a contradiction, but I have given away free stock images to sites like Unsplash. Why? Because I have used images from them for free and wanted to give back. It’s about picking and choosing what is right for you.

I don’t know if the story below is true or not but it’s a great reminder of the value of your work.

Oh, Monsieur Picasso! I’m such a huge fan of your work. I hate to bother you, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to ask if you might make a portrait of me. Please, it would mean so very much to me. I’d pay you gladly for it!”

Picasso agrees, and the woman sits with him. He pulls out a sheet of paper and a pencil, and in a few moments, she has her very own Picasso.

“Oh!” she gushes, “It is so beautiful, I’m so honored. I will cherish this forever! Now what do I owe you?”

“Fifteen thousand francs.” says the artist

“FIFTEEN THOUSAND FRANCS?!? But it only took you three minutes!” she protests.

“No, madam, it took me my entire life.”

What are your thoughts? Has working for free generated you business?