Please Don’t Give Away Your Work for Free
The other day, I saw a tweet that someone posted about working for free. The person is a book cover designer and is (I assume) trying to grow a new business by offering free book cover designs in exchange for reviews on social media sites. I can only guess that the intention is a signal boost for the designer’s website.
I have one thing to say about this, people:
“But why?” you ask. It’s bad business, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, if this is how you make your living, then how are you going to make your living if you don’t get paid for it? Quite simply, you won’t.
“But it will increase my exposure!” you insist. So does sunbathing nude. Still not a good idea. You can also increase your exposure by finding better platforms to market yourself. Instead of spending time on social media giving away your creative genius, spend that time figuring out how to market yourself differently and get the appropriate exposure. Trust me on this one. Research is a better use of your time. Just ask Deb Gonzales, who is killing it with her author platform and teaching others how to do the same.
“But if this is what I want to do, what’s the harm?” Here is the biggest misunderstanding of all. You harm all the other creatives out there trying to make a living from their art/creativity. Some people don’t have the luxury of being able to afford to give away even one piece of their intellectual property, whether it’s a book cover, an illustration for a picture book, a ghost-writing gig, a wedding photography session, or editing services for a résumé. By giving away your work, you create the expectation that all creatives are willing to do a quid pro quo exchange with their own work. In other words, you devalue the creative product of other artists.
“Okay, okay. I hear you. Now what?” Convince other creatives in your life that they need to follow suit. After all, even if you finally get to that place in your career where giving it away got you the recognition that you wanted, someone is bound to come up to you and say, “Why should I pay you when So-and-So is giving it away for free over at freeandcrappy.com?” Yeah, now you kind of hate So-and-So, don’t you?