Creatives Don’t Work For Free

erm no

I was having a conversation the other day, and it went something like this:

‘blah, blah, blah … cost £400 for the plumber, but that was fair enough, although that was only the labour charge.’

‘blah, blah, blah … paid £160 for getting something covered in fabric, and that wasn’t for the material, it was for the time.’

You get the drift.

I also overheard conversations that went something like this:

‘blah, blah, blah … was asked to give it for free but it will be great exposure’

‘blah, blah, blah … was asked if I’d give a discount because …’

There is a big gap between what people see as essential services and creative services. It’s nothing new: the starving artist who only makes any money once he’s dead, the photographer who is constantly asked for freebies in exchange for exposure, the editor who is asked to ‘just take a look’, the writer who is asked to write because it will ‘only take a minute’.  However, while people do not bat an eyelid at paying large hourly rates for mechanics, plumbers and the like, or will pay through the nose for something that is seen as ‘designer’, many people will not pay for creative services.

This made me wonder, if every creative decided to say no to freebies and discounts, and charged properly for their services, would it make any difference? Of course, this will never happen as there is always someone there to say yes to ‘exposure’ or give a discount because they are forced into a corner. We all have to eat after all.

Around the world there are theatre companies shutting up shop because they can’t get funding, amazing craftspeople who are living on the breadline because they can’t get a decent price for their wares (despite high end retailers buying up cheap, mass market replicas and marking them up massively) and other creatives who have to either abandon their dreams altogether or take on a second job to pay the bills.

In these hard times, people need creatives to make life that little bit brighter.

audition actor

Where would we all be if there were no theatres – most actors work for very low wages, and do it ‘for the love’ (wouldn’t it be nice if they were paid properly).

What would the world be like if there were no films – smaller film producers struggle to even get paid.

Would a life without art and craft and photography and music and books be bearable?

This little post is the result of the chaos in my life at the moment. In-between working on books, writing and editing, I am deep in pantomime rehearsals (and have been since early September). Four evenings and one day a week I leave work, and anything that needs doing around the home, and I head to the theatre. During the day, during my breaks, I deal with theatre paperwork and the small jobs that need to be done. It is a community theatre and we do it for the love of it. As a result, this week my blog is being written late on Thursday night.

Thinking about what to write I was at a loss, but after the Curtis Brown Discovery Day on Twitter, and again being reminded that most authors have to have a ‘day job’ while they write, it made me wonder…

What would the world be like if for every time someone bought something in the sales that they didn’t really need, or didn’t really want (just for the sake of saving some money), they bought instead one thing that was created with love, passion and creativity; something that meant something? If instead of asking for a discount or a freebie they thought about the time, skill and love that went into a product or service? If they took the time to realise that the person they are asking for the freebie or the discount had bills to pay and mouths to feed.

I wonder what the world would be like if people took more care over their purchases. If the world would nurture creatives rather than expect things from them at a knockdown price?

The Facebook group Stop Working For Free has over seventeen thousand members, and highlights instances of creatives, freelancers and the like being asked to work for free. A quick look brings up photographers wanted for non-profit organisations, cruise ship entertainers and models needed (and don’t get me started on stolen artwork). There are people struggling to make ends meet as customers ask for freebies and discounts while clutching their expensive, designer coffee.

When you buy from a soletrader, you are not lining the pockets of a large multinational, you are putting food on the table, appreciating the care and attention that goes into their product or service and helping fuel more creativity. Is this any less valid than paying inflated hourly rates for ‘essential services’?

You’ve probably seen this, but an advertising agency Zulu Alpha Kilo (another type of creative that keeps getting asked for discounted services) made a video all about people asking for freebies. It was highlighted on Upworthy.

Next time you ask for a freebie, or are asked for one, remember this video. Let’s nurture creatives and pay them decently. Creative freelancers often earn less than a living wage, be kind to them or you may wake up one day to a world that is beige.

2 Comments on “Creatives Don’t Work For Free

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