Will Not Work For “Exposure”
Everyone knows at least one creative person in their life – be it in the field of photography, music, web design, graphic design, painting, drawing, making jewelry, singing, dancing, et cetera. We all know at least one person who uses their creativity as a source of income – be it their main source or a supplementary source. And I assure you that every creative friend that you have has been asked to use their creative talents for someone else with compensation being, “exposure.”
The idea that exposure is a valid form of compensation for the services of a creative person is incredibly pervasive among other people. Recently, one of my loved ones informed me that they were asked to use one of their particular creative skills for the benefit of someone else and the compensation was, “exposure.” My fellow creatives and I are tired of people asking us to do work for nothing, because that’s exactly what you’re asking us to do when you say it will be great exposure for us. Most people who ask us to do work for the sake of exposure are not multibillion dollar companies with the following required to get proper exposure. Your Facebook friend list does not count as exposure, as it will not lead to generated income.
Exposure will not put money in the bank, it will not pay bills, it will not put food in a person’s belly. Exposure is, essentially, Monopoly money. It is useless, and not a viable form of payment. People perpetuating the idea that exposure is fair compensation are devaluing the work of the creative people. They are saying that our time, effort, and cost of equipment/tools isn’t valuable. They are saying that they don’t view your need for money as important as their frivolous wants.
The truth of the matter is, we don’t need your so-called exposure and you can’t possibly give us the kind of exposure you think you can. We have all the tools to generate our own exposure at the tips of our fingers through the internet. Social media has given us the ability to reach far and wide, to spread what we’ve already created to people. We don’t need to do free services for you in order to do it, either. All it takes is an internet connection and an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, DeviantArt, Patreon, YouTube, Reddit, etc.
I will not work for, “exposure.” It is a slap in a face to me to even attempt to offer that as a form of compensation and I urge my fellow creative types to stop taking jobs that only offer exposure as compensation. Your work, your time, your effort… YOU are worth more than that! You wouldn’t ask a doctor, mechanic, or any other profession to complete a job for the exposure it would give them, so why do you think it’s okay to ask someone in a creative field to do it? I value my time and my skills in my areas. I might charge less than I normally would, depending on the situation, but I won’t work for free on the promise of exposure. Have I done free work for people? Yes, of course I have. Have they asked for the free work? Nope. I do free work when I feel like doing free work, for whom I feel like doing it for. Not even my parents ask me for free work.
Now, there are definitely times when we’ll do work for free, but it’s less for the exposure and more for the sake of our résumés or to generate a dedicated following. We might submit freebies to magazines or websites of some sort of prestige so that we can then turn around and put in our résumé that we are submitting for a paying job that we have contributed to well known sources. If a photographer put in their résumé that they took the wedding photos of their nobody important friend or relative, that’s not going to be as impressive as, “My photographs of cosplayers were published on Polygon,” with a link to said photos. A writer might write some fanfiction and get some fans, then advertise to them that they have an original story for sale and get some sales from those fans.
Now, if you’re needing work done and you don’t have the monetary means to get it done, then you could always trade for services. If my aunt needed a website for her cake business I’d accept some cupcakes as payment, because services and goods are a legitimate form of payment. If someone said, “I need you to design me a flyer/logo, but I can’t pay you for it, but I can give you free coffee for a month/$50 worth of drinks at my bar/etc,” I’d be willing to do some work. If you say, “I need you to design me a flyer/logo, I can’t pay you for it, but it’s good exposure,” then I’m not going to do it. When I designed the logo for the coffee shop at Spartanburg Community College it was for a contest, and not only did I get my logo above the coffee shop, I also got free coffee until I graduated with my degree about a year later and I got to list it as an accomplishment in my résumé. That, to me, was well worth the logo. Your claims of free exposure? Not so worth it, in my opinion.