Should Creatives Work For Free?

“Don’t worry, even though you’re not getting paid with money, the rewards in the long run from all the exposure you will get will be so worth it!”

Has anybody else in the creative field heard these words before?  With me also being a musician (in addition to a designer), I know I certainly have heard these words countless times before.

It’s a frustrating position to be in as a creative person (sometimes).  You are passionate about what you do, and that is why you love what you do.  You want to get work, because that’s what pays the bills.  No matter what type of creative you are, the services that creatives provide will always be needed.

Everybody at some time or another will need to solicit the services of a creative — let’s take weddings for example.  A graphic designer will be needed to design the wedding invitations, a photographer for documenting the entire day, musicians for the ceremony music and a d.j. for the reception dancing music, and a chef/catering company to provide all the good food (just to name a few).  Now, I am married and I know how scarily expensive weddings can get!  I also know that (in my experience) that most people think that creatives overcharge for their services and people essentially want to get the services that creatives provide for free.

Now, I’m all for a good deal but creatives deserve just like anybody else to receive the pay for the good/service they provide.

I think that what makes it difficult for people to accept what creatives charge is that art (in its many forms) is difficult to measure.  Yes, it can be easy to calculate how much time an artist would spend on a specific service in contribution to the wedding, but part of the service charge is the key word here:  artistry.  How many years has a designer, a photographer, a musician, and a chef dedicated to get their skill to the level where it is today?  That is very difficult to measure.

Any average Joe can go around with a camera and take pictures, but those pictures aren’t going to look a thing how the client wants them to look.  So, in response to the question posed in the title of this post — NO, a creative should never provide their services for free.  No creative should undermine their expertise in their area like this, no matter how much a person promises for all the “exposure” in the world.

Now, especially for younger creatives, I think if an arrangement is made for an exchange of goods/services instead of money, there is nothing wrong with that.  As long as a creative is not working for free, I’m happy.