Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hot Topic Tuesday: Working For Free

Last week, I saw a fellow host post this message on Twitter:

As you can see, I retweeted it with my own message and another host responded with her thoughts.  With the recent boom in online content, this has become a recurring theme and I thought it was one worthy of exploring.  When should you work for free?  When should you stop working for free?

Working for free is a good idea if.......
1.  Reel:  You need material for your reel whether it is for an acting, host, choreography, or directing reel.  If you need the footage and this project will add dimension to your portfolio of work, then get on that set and start working.

2.  Prestige:  The prestige project is an opportunity to jump at whether it is working with a mentor in the business, a celebrity, or a buzzworthy script. It might get you some great press, add new contacts to your address book, and give you some bragging rights that you worked on that piece.

3.  Charity:  From time to time, you may be asked to perform to benefit a charity.  Why would you ever say "no" to helping others?  I rest my case.

Image courtesy of Pink Elephant Academy

Working for free is a bad idea if......
1. Zero Return:  If you have already done a similar project, worked with the same people (and didn't enjoy the experience), or have enough of that genre on your reel.  It's time to ask for a paycheck.  You have proven your worth in this area, you should be paid for your time.

2.  On-Camera Talent:  Ah, the creative ones.  We are always afraid we will never work again, but it's time we put our foot down on this.  While many of the people behind the camera are getting paid, you agreed to work for free.  It's a business, people.  It's time to use your business acumen and get paid for your work.  Like the tweet above states, you are driving rates down for everyone because you are THAT person who will always work for free.

3. Brand:  It devalues your brand.  You become the always available, always willing to work, and always FREE talent. You cheapen your worth.  Don't be that person.

It's understandable in this era of start-ups and online budgets that you may not get your standard TV/Film rates, but it's time you stand up for your work and your worth.  Create a rate card with your standard rates to have handy when clients ask. I always believe that rates are negotiable based on the budget on a project to project basis. This is not about trying to make as much money as possible, this is about creating a career filled with meaning and worth that makes sense for your brand.

What are your thoughts on working for free?  Is it hurting the entertainment industry?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so comment below or on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +.  

Disclaimer:  Of course I have worked for free in my career, but I am noticing a trend in the entertainment industry that is a slippery slope to working for free all of the time.  Don't do it.  


  1. While not in the industry, this is still a great reminder for bloggers

    1. It is a great reminder for all of us.....bloggers, entertainers, marketers, publicists, etc.

  2. I've had similar conversations with people in my line of work. I don't get it as much because of my particular position but people still feel perfectly fine asking me to basically consult on their issues for free. Also, every couple of years there is a push by our particular guild to actually mandate that members work a certain number of hours for free. A lot of people do in fact give away sometimes hundreds of hours of work each year for free, myself included, but the idea of mandating it really urks me.

    1. There are always a few exceptions to the rule. There are a couple of charities I like to give my time on the red carpet, but it irks me that it is a constant in the entertainment industry....and I'm now hearing from so many like you in other industries who deal with the same issue.

    2. I just realized that my last comment was horribly worded.


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