When to say yes to a free work opportunity

when to say yes and when to decline work for exposure
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Creative success coach, Photographer, rescue dog mom, book worm, INFJ, Enneagram 3, doing my best to be mindful, kind & help people be their most authentic, purposeful selves.


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How to negotiate opportunities to work for exposure.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked to work for a ‘free opportunity’ I’d be quite wealthy. You know the drill, you’re working 24/7 in your creative business to market your work and look after your paying clients when along comes an ‘opportunity’ for you to do a job in exchange for the promise of ‘coverage’ and ‘a foot in the door’.

Working for free to build a portfolio and gain experience is a brilliant idea when you’re just starting your business and you really need work to share on your website as well as to start building your network. If you’re just starting out, make the most of these opportunities to learn and build your reputation.

However, if you’ve been working for 6 months or more as a full time creative, I advise proceeding with caution when it comes to this sort of work and carefully evaluating whether or not it’s worth your while to give your valuable time away to a client who can’t or won’t pay.

I would only agree to do a job for free if: it helps a charity that I support and the donation of my time assists in fund raising for a cause I’m passionate about, if it adds to my portfolio by giving me the opportunity to photograph a celebrity or subject that will raise my profile or if the job gives me leverage to share my work with a market I’m looking to expand into.

If you’re offered marketing exposure to your target market in exchange for a free job, you’ll want to consider the following –

  1. Making it clear to the client what the equivalent monetary amount for your time would be (if you don’t know this, download my free pricing guide here to work this figure out)
  2. Negotiating the same monetary amount of coverage/exposure in exchange for your time
  3. If you’re promised social media coverage, agree in writing what this looks like e.g. tagging, logos on images, website links, IG story shares etc
  4. Checking the client’s social media following and engagement – being ‘exposed’ to an audience of 200 people on Instagram or Facebook is worthless
  5. Being clear and upfront about what you will and won’t include as part of the job – perhaps you’ll just include web res images and not hi-res files for example

One of these ‘opportunities’ came my way last week (hence this post) and I said no. The job wasn’t in alignment with the work I do or clients I wish to attract. I’m simply not prepared to give my time away without being paid appropriately.

The end goal of running a successful creative business is to be able to earn a good living doing what you love, this shouldn’t involve struggling and feeling obliged to work for free in exchange for the promise of marketing which, from my own experience, rarely materialises.

Getting to the point of charging appropriately and earning a decent living are topics I tackle with my coaching clients. If you’re feeling stuck and you’d like some help with getting your business up and running profitably, I’d love to help.

Please get in touch with me here to arrange a time to discuss your goals and how I can help make them a reality for you.


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