5 Reasons Artists Should Work for Free
Every artist knows how difficult it can be to get paid for their work. Though they’ve spent years and thousands of dollars perfecting their craft, the default expectation tends to be that artists should not only give their work away for free, but should be grateful to for the opportunity to do so. After all, art can’t fix your car or make your internet faster or unclog your toilet, so it’s viewed as unnecessary and therefore should be free and accessible on demand. In a world that values the quick, easy, and shallow, why should we pay for the good, the true, and the beautiful?
Combating this mindset is often an uphill battle for the artist who respects their time, talent and worth as a professional in the marketplace. With so much going against them, is there ever a reason an artist should willingly work for free? Here are 5 reasons an artist may consider it.
To Build a Portfolio
While the “do it for experience/exposure” argument is probably the most cited excuse not to pay an artist, there is something to the idea of working for free to build your portfolio. You need to have examples of your work to showcase to potential clients and preferably an example of something that has already been published, performed, or showcased in a professional setting. Often the only way to get these opportunities it to volunteer your services to build your portfolio. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but be mindful of when the grace period is over and you should start charging for your services.
For Friends and Family
Offering to be the videographer at your cousins wedding as a gift or helping a fellow creative on their project are wonderful reasons to work for free. Being generous with your time and talents is a commendable thing. However, in an ideal world friends and family would always be kind and supportive, but sadly even your nearest and dearest can take advantage of you. Be generous, but don’t be a doormat.
While some opportunities may not pay, the connections the job offers could pay off in spades. Do your research. Be as certain as possible that taking advantage of an opportunity to work for free will be valuable to you in the long run, and then go for it.
For a Cause You Believe In
You may choose to work for free to support a cause or charity you deeply believe in. One of the most powerful things about art is its ability to bring people together and touch a common core. Choosing to offer your skills for this reason is admirable, and can even lead to opportunities you never foresaw beforehand.
Breaking in to a New Field
If you are attempting to break in to a creative field you have no experience in, working for free is actually the best thing you can do. Offering your services to a friend or acquaintance for free allows you room to learn without the pressure of feeling you have to make a pristine product. Being honest with the person you are creating for allows you both to help each other out; they get the product and you gain experience without the added complication of money changing hands.
Ultimately, if and why an artist chooses to work for free is up to the individual artist, their beliefs, and their needs. The important thing is to value and respect your own work and surround yourself with people who will reflect that value and respect back to you.