Would you work for free? A tricky question for creatives.

March 16, 2010

And one which has been further thrust into the creative limelight here today.

It’s a tricky question for creatives such as content-producers, designers and photographers. The issue around new quarterly print food mag Fire & Knives has certainly set a few flames raging over at www.journalism.co.uk.

Following a tweet by publication founder and freelance food writer Tim Hayward on Twitter, requesting photographers to get involved – but without payment being offered – there was a huge backlash on the ‘working for exposure but no cash’ debate.

It raises further issues in the creative industry – after all, nobody has forced the writers and photographers to work for gratis – it was their choice. Nobody dragged them on board and made them deliver creative work, on pain of death. They did the work.

Saying that, I can see the other side of the debate – namely, why should creatives have to be within an industry where they even have to consider working for nothing to raise their profile? An industry which is still being hammered by the economic recession.

An industry where 1,000’s of journalists apply for a single vacancy, just to be able to guarantee regular payments. Tough times.

My own take on it would be – a bit of both. Yes, give initially, make sure your work is valued and adding value. But also make it very clear that payment needs to happen asap. Raise the profile of the publication, but not to the point where you’re resentful at delivering for a reduced fee or no fee at all. Make the project work for you, your portfolio and your creative future.

And if it isn’t working? Walk away, learn the lesson and don’t repeat it. There will be 10 people behind you ready to do it for nowt.

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