Personal View site logo
Make sure to join PV on Telegram or Facebook! Perfect to keep up with community on your smartphone.
Please, support PV!
It allows to keep PV going, with more focus towards AI, but keeping be one of the few truly independent places.
Should I work for free? Excellent flowchart...
  • Thought you'd enjoy this, which I found at the site of a wonderful photographer (she's the boxer in that early GH2 film you might have seen).

    Applies to musicians, too!

    You can also see her photography at

  • 32 Replies sorted by
  • Very good :-)

  • @Mark_the_Harp - In an era and a trade where so many people do gratis work with the hope of advancement, this is a very valid topic. Thanks for posting this

  • Great to see someone who's made their own flow chart. I say, do your own.

    I once negotiated a freebie TV commercial with a client, who paid for film stock, development, telecine, online edit hire - and then signed a contract that they would broadcast the ad for a certain number of spots.

    It all came off well.The ad looked high-budget (it would have been if I'd charged for all my time) and the client's business boomed. They later sponsored a whole series using my 30-second ad and 15-second versions.

    I was given an opportunity to do something everybody would have thought too risky and unlikely to recover its costs. I got to be known as they guy who shot that ad. It's embarrassing, but I got as much work and esteem from my peers from that 27-second commercial as I would have got from a feature film!

  • this is fantastic!!! Great find. I loved reading her blog commentary, too.

  • ohh boy chart is so true.should be subject in classes.

  • Work for free or don't work at all. You're choice.

  • @jokerzd2 If you're good at something, never do it for free... unless it's for a legit charity or your mother. :)

  • @Mark_the_Harp Loved reading that. Thanks for finding it and linking to it. :)

  • Meh.

    That chart will damage your career, unless you are currently highly paid and have no desire for advancement.

    Working for free is the usual method for advancing your career in show business. If you have no experience, you make coffee for free as a PA until they see how useful you are, and they put you on the payroll. If you're a 2nd AC and you want to move up to 1st, you go and do some small films as a 1st AC for free before you ask your DP friends to give you a bump. You get your experience on free jobs, instead of learning on a paying job.

    If you want to change your market niche (like going from a car DP to a fashion DP), you will work for free for a while until you build up enough samples so that people will hire you for fashion.

    Working for free is very valuable for learning/gaining experience, building a body of work and meeting people who can help you get the job you want.

    If you want to get a better job, don't ask "how much?" ask "what can I gain from this?"

  • Not to mention charity work. I was moved by French TV news footage last week where volunteer dentists treated thousands of patients for free in a school gymnasium. Most patients - families with children, workers, elderly, had waited in queue all through the previous night.

    Even if you're self-centred, the best way to make yourself happy & live longer is to help others. When a certain non-profit emergency service helped save my son's life they never got another bill from me for my media work.

    And no, I don't specify with them exactly what I'm prepared to do before I act. And when I go around town asking businesses to supply materials, they'll give me , without question, as much as I can carry.

  • I don't think the chart is suggesting you don't work for free - there are lots of "Yes, I should" options after all. As the title says, it's a good test of "should I" work for free. I think if you have a good reason, like @Roberto above, then why not? Altruism, or the good of mankind, or to express thanks for a favour? I think that comes under the remit of owing the proverbial kidney, as the chart puts it.

    However, @AdR says, there are reasons other than payment why you might like to do the work. Definitely that should be a 5th choice in the middle, ie Will it lead to advancement? Advancement could mean skills, kudos, industry connections, stuff for the CV / showreel, publicity etc. That's a major missing bit of this graphic, I think, and @AdR you are right to draw attention to it.

    I think the key to doing this in a healthy way that respects you and your "customer" is that it must be YOUR choice. If you work for free, YOU must decide to do it, not be pressured or guilted into it. If it's a cause you support, or something you would like to do, of course why not? Unfortunately the pressure and guilt happens all too often in the creative arena but only if we let it. I guess I'm more sensitive to this with my musician hat on, because I've been bitten in the bum once too often by that. With music, people think it's somehow doing you a favour to ask you to travel at your expense to and from their venue and provide your equipment, time and skills for nothing. And it's always where I don't properly negotiate things where this has happened. The last time I did this for a charity (actually, a commercial business which gave some of the profits of its sales to charity) the only thing I asked in return was a mention of my name - I covered all the fuel and everything. And guess what - they credited someone else with my music. So forgive me if I sound bitter! Although maybe that wasn't what most people would consider a charity at all.

  • One of the worst things about working free (hoping for more work later) is the fact you may be doing work which will be under-valued, if not unused and ignored. Before I did the free TV commercial it was my greatest fear that my work would not be broadcast. It was, (thanks to a signed agreement) and everybody benefited.

    Psychologists insist on charging patients because it fulfils a mutual contract acknowledging the value of the service. Their experience with patients treated for free is that they often do not benefit from the treatment as do patients who pay.

  • Yes - that's it - a contract.

    I think the only time a contract is not necessary is when you are so keen to support a cause that you are happy to do whatever, without worrying about the return, because it's "what you want to do". With anything else, a contract (whether in writing, whether money is involved or not) allows both sides to be clear about what's within and what's outside the scope of the work. Where it goes wrong often is where you are dealing with people who don't understand what they need / are asking for / are expecting,

  • All interesting stuff. My first video job that gave anything in return was last month for a much needed 2 TB hard drive. Considering I wanted to do it for the experience alone and desperately was running out of HD space thanks to my hacked GH2, I was very content with the deal. Plus I will be getting sudo regular pay for future projects because of this. The pay is very low, but again experience and a bit of monetary incentive equals a content mee.

  • @mee Absolutely. As long as you're happy, it sounds a great arrangement. I did a free charity event (actually the one I mentioned in my last but one post) and someone afterwards contacted me to ask me to play for a dinner. I'm doing that tomorrow (a music one, not a GH2 one) so even after ranting about being stitched up by this charity, actually I did get something out of it after all. Nice to get money (or gear) in return for your time and skills.

  • By the way, great joke in the wedding photography topic, which bears paraphrasing here - about the guy who is asked to do a wedding video for free. "Sure, he says, I'll turn up with my iPhone". The client asks, "You're going to shoot my wedding on an iPhone?". Video guy: "No, of course not. I'm going to use it to text all your friends about how cheap you are."

  • Article: PHILOSOPHY: On the Subject of Freebies

    Art Adams | 07/30

    Everyone starts out working for free. That’s the only way those in the industry can find out whether you’re any good. At some point, though, it’s important to stop—or at least be more selective.

  • I'm not so sure about working for free, but if you are in a lull where there is no work, why not? Downside is that many people, myself included, form indelible first impressions. Long term, I think it is better to have market leverage, where you are perceived as supplying a service that is hard to find.

  • Loved the chart. There's a big difference between taking on unpaid work to advance your career, and taking on unpaid work for a coercive company who imply that it'll advance your career.

    I do plenty of free work for artists and creative people who I support, for non-profits that I support, for friends who I see it as being a part of a reciprocal relationship, and for people who could legitimately advance my career. But 2-bit companies that are two damned cheap to pay you are not worth your time, ever.

    Edit - that said, I proudly work on a sliding-scale basis, and happily negotiate lower rates for less affluent clients. I also have done several projects on the basis of work-exchange and profit sharing. There are many ways to work out a compensation scheme with people that can't pay your standard rate up-front, that does not involve working for nothing.

  • A simple yes or no would do. ;-)

  • The story about the non-profit client adds value. A simple no would not have worked that well.