It is notoriously known that freelancers in the creative industry are the most exploited, often requested to work for free.
Our most common excuse for working for free is “It will look good on my CV’, but how many times can we use this same excuse without it being at a cost to ourselves and the value of our work?

Working for free or at too low a cost stunts what an employer values the worth of your services or our profession in general. It makes them think it is something easily accessible at a low cost, makes you ‘replaceable’ and unfortunately sets a trend for others to think or be treated the same way.

We posted a video on our social media outlets over a year ago with a 2007 interview of writer Harlan Ellison speaking on being expected to work for free.


Ellison speaks of his anger when he is asked to work for free whilst others are paid. He says “the amateurs ruin it for the professionals” which alludes to the notions that those who don’t know how to value their work and have worked for free make it difficult for those who want to be paid. It has set a trend.

Why should you work for free? Isn’t there a cost to you? Your time, travel expenses, equipment hire, etc?

To begin in any career you have to start somewhere, and so you offer your services for free to gain the experience and build a portfolio, but be sure to acknowledge when a limit has been reached and where you can now start to ask for a monetary exchange for those services. With friends or people you know, it can be very difficult to say no or to ask for money but those that ask for free labour may not fully understand the amount of time and work you have to put in. Take photography for example, many that request a photographer forget or don’t know about the time spent after the photoshoot; the time taken to edit and sort the images. They often just want to pay for the time they spent with you. So whether friend or client asking you to work for free you must respectfully decline and tell them the reasons why: your time, your skill, equipment costs and travel expenses.

Not all work has to have a monetary exchange but make sure that it is a fair one. Ensure that you are truly getting something out of the experience and the extent of the work is discussed. Do not put yourself out for something that has no benefit to you., designed by Jessica Hische offers a chart to aid your decision of whether to work for free or not. Should someone ask you, you can refer to the chart for an answer.

Don’t undersell yourself and your work! Be the change that helps not only yourself but the creative industry.