Don’t Work For Free

Happy International Women’s Day!

On this day that celebrates the working woman, I’d like to offer some blunt advice.
Don’t let people pick your brain.
Don’t barter in unequal measure.
Don’t work for free.
The people who want you to work for free wouldn’t dream of it. The ones who prey on your ideas won’t follow your advice anyway. And why not trade? Because too often, you don’t understand the value of what you’re giving away.
That promise they make to you, the one about you getting exposure when you invest your creative currency in their project. It’s a lie.
Exposure is a funny word, a slippery one, one that dealers dangle with shiny promise. Do you know how much exposure you need to have a six-figure year?
You need an audience of three. Three clients with a $100K budget and an average 35% markup and you would earn enough to take care of yourself and your family. With all of the ways we have to communicate with people—our people—online and off, do you really think you can’t reach them? Really?
Those business models that call themselves disruptive, who want to leverage your talent, your photography, without credit or payment to you, for their sales? Before you consider “collaborating”, ask yourself, are each of you building wealth in the same way?
Designers are mostly women. In this country there is a legacy of a handful of the same kind of people profiting from the unpaid work of women and minorities. According to a 2015 report from consulting firm McKinsey, if women’s paid participation in the formal economy became identical to men’s, we’d add $28 trillion (or 26%) to global gross domestic product.
Twenty-eight trillion.  
Creative work, service work, women’s work has LONG been devalued because and it doesn’t help us or the design industry when creatives themselves are complicit in the process of the devaluation.
So I implore you. Don’t. Work. For. Free.
You can do amazing work AND get paid. You are SUPPOSED to get paid. The ease with which your ideas flow to you and your desire to help people are your currency.
If that wasn’t valuable, they wouldn’t keep trying to take it.

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