Friday, August 31st, 2012
Everybody gets to make their own choices in life about whether to give away work for free. My answer to any situation where I’m expected to give work away for free, like the answer to anything worth asking, is it depends.
It Depends on Several Factors
Some people (usually successful people with an income) suggest that you do anything to get your work out there. Others (also usually successful people with an income) say never to give anything away without crossing your palm with silver. That’s kind of confusing and a little binary for the real world so I’ll put forward some of the factors that influence that depends.
It depends on whether the entity that wants to use your photograph or writing is making money out of it. You deserve to be able to buy bread to feed your family just like everybody else. Commercial entities, especially business entities, have slipped into the habit of sourcing free content for their marketing and web assets. Don’t be a schmuck – it’s called exploitation.
It depends on their reputation and intentions towards your work. In other words, is this somewhere you feel comfortable about your work being represented? It could be a photograph among prestigious artists on a well known website or it could just as easily be for a poster that will represent a political party that you despise. It isn’t enough to be out there… you need to be in the right places sending the right marketing message to the target segment that might do your business some benefit.
It depends on the relevance of the place that your photograph or content will appear. Is there a direct link that justifies your marketing investment? For example, this week I declined having my photograph used for free on a real estate website because there is no marketing correlation between the web page where somebody is searching for a house to buy or rent and my ability to produce photography. There is next to zero correlation between home buyers and Oh I think I might contact that photographer and buy a photograph. At the same time, real estate companies NEVER EVER work for free in my universe so it’s a little cheeky to be expecting it from me.
Had the request been to use a Holga photograph to appear in a plastic camera book likely to become popular then there may have been a direct marketing link that would justify my acceptance. The market segment buying and reading that book might well want to purchase a photograph and put bread onto my family’s table. However, even when that correlation exists, there is still a judgement call to be made. How do you feel about the specific situation? Because if money is to be made then you deserve to be included to the value of your effort (beyond a vain gamble that you will be noticed as the next Versace). Does the cab driver work for free? The supermarket delivery boy? Would you expect them to? No.