There’s a lot of controversy in the equine photography industry, and I’d imagine in other industries, too, around working for free…
Should you? Shouldn’t you? Is ‘exposure’ worth working for?
What can you possibly get out of working for no money?
Most photographers, as an example, will say that NO, you absolutely should not work for free and that ‘exposure will not pay your bills‘.
And whilst I agree on the one hand, I also don’t think it’s as black and white as this and I think people need to be a little more open minded and resourceful. Whatever goods or service you provide, I think that there are, in some cases, strong, valid reasons to work for free.
Hear me out…
When I started my business, I did a lot of work for free. And I even still do the odd bit here and there.
At first, I needed to build a portfolio.
With no experience and nothing to show, there was no way I felt I could start charging people for shoots right away. I had to prove my worth. So, first of all I got a few friends, and friends of friends, to agree to model for me, with their horses. And then I put those images online and used them to hold a competition, for people to win free shoots.
I picked a handful of local winners and shot them for free, too, to expand my portfolio and market my shoots.
So, that’s why I was happy to do free shoots then, but now I’m more established and have enough paid bookings coming in to make a good living, why do I still bother to work for free, on occasions?
Sometimes there are new things I want to try, a project or series that I want to capture, or a specific type of horse I want to shoot. In which case I might put a call out on my Facebook page, for models and do these shoots for free, as I am instigating them.
This is especially true in my quieter period.
I’d rather be out there, shooting, creating, experimenting, producing content to post on social media, reminding people I exist, than indoors watching my inbox, hoping somebody might book me…
The other reason I might work for free is if there is somebody that I spot on social media with a huge following.
If I think that it might benefit me to get in front of their audience, then I might contact them and ask if they’d be interested in a shoot. This is influencer marketing and is no different to a brand sending a celebrity some of their products. And it’s a great way to reach new audiences and get people talking about your brand.
This where I think the ‘exposure doesn’t pay bills’ adage is becoming a little old fashioned and outdated.
Influencer marketing is huuuuge these days. And it’s becoming more and more common to expect that exposure does in fact lead to work that pays bills. And lots of it!
I think the key here is to make sure your freebies are on YOUR TERMS!
Don’t fall into the trap of giving free goods or services away to just anybody who claims they’ll promote you. Follow somebody for a while before approaching them about collaborating. Make sure you pick your ‘influencers’ carefully and only do this when you find somebody who is the right fit for your brand.
Basically, I believe that if you have a very specific purpose and the work is done on your terms, then working for free isn’t necessary the cardinal sin that most people would have you believe.
As long as you are intentional about it and have a specific end goal, that you want to achieve, whether that’s exposure, expanding your portfolio, a chance to work on a personal project or try something new, then there is definitely something to gain by working for free.
And I guess, with that in mind, none of the above is really ‘free’, because you’re making sure you and your brand are getting something from every single arrangement.
Just don’t do it too often. Your time is valuable and you mustn’t forget that!
Thanks for joining me for this week’s FYI Friday. I look forward to seeing you back here again next week! Have an awesome weekend.