So a lot of my friends work in the creative fields. I have friends who are graphic designers, artists, sculptors, etc and they are outstanding and talented professionals. I often see them post on social media about people approaching them to work on a project for them and then uttering the phrase “I can’t pay you, but it’ll be such great exposure.” My reaction to this can be best described by Kristin Wiig’s facial expression below:
I’m a professional stand-up comic which makes me a performance artist and I’m really just dumbfounded at this. Exposure? Exposure to what exactly? An asshat that doesn’t want to pay a creative PROFESSIONAL for their work, that’s what. See last time I checked, you can’t pay your bills with “exposure.” I’m also fairly certain that you can’t eat exposure either. Most people wouldn’t dream of treating other professionals that way. You wouldn’t walk into an accountant’s office and ask them to do your taxes for exposure, so why would you ever think it’s okay to do that to someone who works in a creative field? And just to add insult to injury most of these people then get offended when the creative professionals tell them that they can’t do work unpaid. It’s like they clutch their pearls and say “How dare you! I’m trying to do you a favor and you’re throwing it back in my face!” Right because the professional who wants to be compensated for their time and energy is totally the bad guy in this equation. Give me a break!
I think the factors at play here are:
- The ridiculous and antiquated perception that creative work like art and music is not actual work.
- The fact that most creative fields are extremely competitive and difficult to get into.
Let me go ahead and address those here and now:
- Using my stand up comedy as an example: For every minute of material I do at a show, an hour of WORK goes into it. How? Let me break it down for you. There’s:
- The time I spent writing the joke
- The time I spent refining the joke
- The time I spent rehearsing the joke
- The time I spent at an open mic testing the joke in front of a live audience
- The time I spent further refining the joke
- The time I spent talking to the booker to get an opportunity to tell my joke at their show
- The time I spent promoting the show
- The time I spent coming up with a set list for the show
- The time I spent memorizing and rehearsing that set list
- The time I spent traveling to and from the show (not to mention the gas)
- The time I spent actually doing the show
- The time I spent editing video from the show
- The time I spent uploading the video to my YouTube channel
- The time I spent sharing the video on my social media platforms in an effort to book more shows
So when you ask a creative to do a project for you, you’re asking them for their TIME and TIME IS MONEY and what we do is ACTUAL work. So when you ask a creative for their time but don’t offer them any actual compensation, don’t be surprised if you get this as a response:
2. Yes, the creative fields are extremely competitive. Yes, there are more comics than stages, more filmmakers than studios willing to pay them, more graphic designers than organizations that need them, etc. Yes, exposure is a great thing to creative professionals, but let’s go back to the fact that they are creative PROFESSIONALS and PROFESSIONALS GET PAID. Art, music, comedy, and entertainment are all businesses. You know what moves through businesses? MONEY! Honestly, if you’re using the fact that a business is cutthroat competitive to get out of paying someone to do their work, you’re just taking advantage of someone who’s in a tough position. That’s a d*ck move so I’ll just leave this here for you to refer back to:
Now let’s talk attitude: If you went to an accountant to get your taxes done and offered him exposure in return, they’d probably tell you to come back when you can pay. You’re not entitled. If you can’t pay to have your taxes done by a professional, you ain’t getting your taxes done by a professional. You wouldn’t take that as a personal affront. Likewise if you can’t pay for a special effects sculptor to work on your film, you don’t get to make your film. Why is your reaction to this any different from your reaction to the accountant? Seriously, not cool. Maybe if you hustle and grind the way creative professionals do every day and perhaps get a Kickstarter going, you can make enough money to pay the creative professionals you’re trying get to work for free.