The topic of working for free has been a common feature in the artistic world. The risk that high end companies use their power within the industry to exploit new artists is something that creatives are always fighting against - and rightly so. Why should they handover their original content without receiving something in return? When we think of working for free, naturally we think in monetary value, as we are told to believe there is nothing in the work unless cash is being put into our hand. But how true is this? Are payments always done by the pound or are there times where you need to look at the bigger picture?
Do we only get paid in money?
I recently announced on my Facebook that I had become a contributor for The Phoblographer. On the whole people were positive, but there were a couple of people who felt the need to try and shame me, as they assumed I was doing it for free. In monetary terms, their assumption was accurate, but I certainly am going to get something out of the relationship I have with the site.
Now before we go down the “exposure does not pay bills” (which is true) let’s have a little bit of reality check here. I am relatively new to the photographic game, and it is only recently I have started picking up pay cheques for my writing. In most industries the game has changed, and this is mainly down to the internet - meaning ways to generate income have evolved with time.
So why am I prepared to contribute to The Phoblographer without getting paid in cash?
Firstly, I am confident in my writing abilities - but I'm certain I can get a whole lot better. Working with experienced editors will only enable me to do that. It will get my brain thinking more, I will be challenged and receive critique - all important elements required to improve your craft. Second to this, is the readership base that I will be reaching. Raising your social profile can bring in work from all angles, and because I am someone who thinks long term, of course I want to be developing strong contacts and growing a strong network. In my eyes being a contributor is a stepping stone to that happening.
We then must look at time versus reward. I will be contributing one article per month - that is around 2 hours a month of my time - to do something I enjoy, learn new skills and raise my profile - it is a no brainer for me. Now I could say, I am only doing it if you give me X amount of money, and yes that would be nice, however this mercenary view could limit who will work with me and therefore reduce the exposure and experience I am after.
Thinking long term
Whilst the approach of the negative people was to try and put me down, I get what they were doing. They want everyone to get paid cash for the labour they do, we've all got to make a living after all. However, pride should never stop you from looking at what you can get out of any situation - what does not pay today can certainly pay tomorrow.
So no, I shall not receive a monetary fee for my contribution, but that certainly does not mean I am not getting paid. I believe we all have to box clever, more so when we have a long term goal we are working towards, and the work I am doing is all part of that.
Whilst I welcome the contribution of those with a more cynical view, I would have to disagree with them. I hope you do to if your grinding for something bigger. Yes you should always ensure you’re getting paid - but that payment does not always have to have the Queen's face on it to be of value.
Thanks for reading
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