Dear Freelancers and Clients, let’s talk about Payment in Exposure
Most freelancers I have interfaced with always feel blessed to be doing what they truly love and to turn their passions into an income-generating venture to achieve a decent livelihood for themselves.
The perks that come with being a freelancer are really desirable; Working from the comfort of your couch, at your own pace, or choosing which client you want to work for and not.
However, what no one really prepares you for is just how boldly people, companies, and organizations expect you to easily work for free or pay you in ‘exposure’.
When I was starting out as a ‘full-time’ freelancer about two years ago, I was met with bold clients who expected me to work for free. I was a budding social media influencer and content creator then and some clients made me believe that my only shot at making it big was accepting to do some work for free in return for exposure to potential clients.
Only 2% of the work did give me returns while the rest was simply a ripoff. I learned the hard way and I always instantly feel irritated when clients reach out and still want to woo me to give them free articles in exchange for ‘exposure’.
The most disgusting comment I ever got from a client was;
“Yeah, you are always on social media posting jokes and your engagement is great so it must be easy for you to push my product on your platforms for free.”
If you don’t have a budget then you probably don’t need it
Let’s be honest, many of you who are now on top of your hustle game and have been in the field for long will strongly agree that you’ve taken on a lot of unpaid work and it’s directly led to nothing. If it has indeed worked for some, they’re not entirely proud of it and many will reckon they didn’t really have a choice.
Under the pretext of ‘we don’t have a budget’, canning clients are out there to guilt-trip and hoodwink freelancers into believing that they can’t make it if they don’t do some free work in return for exposure.
That’s absolute nonsense!
I’ve always wondered, why would you plan for something you don’t have a budget for? Why do you think you need it in the first place if it’s not that important to allocate a portion of the budget?
Clients normally say;
“You know, we don’t have a budget but could you be willing to work for free on this and we’ll give you a platform to get your work out there. This could be good for your brand, you know.”
Working long hours for the experience or exposure is outrightly exploitation and it needs to be curtailed without any further debate. You are better off getting paid half your asking price than being paid nothing at all in exchange for ‘exposure’.
No! It’s not good for your portfolio
There is a common school of thought that having ‘big organizations’ and ‘big companies’ is good for your brand and if they appear on your portfolio it will give you a high chance of attracting clients.
That is mostly a lie and a myth.
While it may boost your credibility ( to a few), it doesn’t really carry a lot of weight at all.
Many clients are always gassed to believe that they are big and can get away with asking for free services from freelancers in exchange for ‘exposure’. The analogy is if their company appears on your portfolio or you are associated with them, it will boost your ratings. However, it’s usually not as true as it sounds. I’ve been down that road of lies before.
It doesn’t make sense having big companies and organizations on your portfolio as a freelancer when it can’t translate to getting paid or can’t sort your bills. Freelancers fully rely on gigs to keep afloat and if you can’t meet them halfway, you’re seriously wasting their time.
Most times, a freelancer’s portfolio is showing the previous works he or she has done and not a fully detailed CV as though you were applying for a full-time job at a company. I’d say, as a freelancer, you are better off in bettering your craft and having great work to pitch to clients than wasting your time working to be paid in exposure.
Value your darned time
A friend who had been long in the game of freelancing game gave me some advice;
If you have a long-term and very profitable client, then the occasional ‘ freebie’ can be quite a good idea to show that you value them and to present new ideas to them or make new contacts, which can turn into further work down the line. However, you have to be seriously selective and careful before you make that decision. Most importantly, remember to value your time as you venture into freelancing
You should only consider working for exposure if you don’t really value your time. Otherwise, the work that goes into putting together an article for an organization, company, or campaign is too much to be rewarded with mere “exposure”.
It is utterly nonsensical, an outright insult, and a complete disregard for the time, dedication, and skill set a freelancer has to invest in creating something. No matter what you are offering in return, working for exposure or working for free is a jibe.
What’s hurting is later learning that the project you contributed to had a budget and you were entitled to pay but someone decided that your worth was ‘exposure’ and didn’t pay you.
Choose not to settle for mediocrity
There’re many of us that have worked for exposure in return and to be honest, it’s some freelancers that shoot themselves in the foot every time they don’t speak out on some of these unfair acts by clients.
Every day, freelancers and creatives that are just starting out that are prone to such circumstances. Some are completely clueless about how the industry works and are just excited to have their work out there and will settle for less such as ‘working for exposure’.
These new naive freelancers will often meet greedy clients who believe that they should go through the phase of working for free before they finally make it and they’ll exploit them. It’s sad.
However, it’s important to note that a freelancer and client are part of the issue; working for exposure. For as long as freelancers don’t speak up for themselves and continue taking up such offers, the idea of someone confidently asking for free work in return for some exposure on their Instagram or to their thousand Facebook followers will continue flourishing.
Clients are looking for the best and cheapest deal they can strike and are in one way or the other going to try and exploit that option as much as possible. As a freelancer, you ought to remember to value your skill and time put into producing your work.