Oh but my goodness has there been a recent uptick in demands for artists to work for free!
Or maybe it’s just that Twitter makes these fools so much easier to find.
This week’s post is about how to avoid the psychological mind tricks people use when they ask you to work for free (or for booze or for the glory of [Fill in the Blank Social Movement]).
Because I like them so gosh darn much, I’m going to be using tweets from @forexposure_txt‘s twitter feed in this post.
The fine folks at @forexposure_txt post ridiculous requests for artists to work for free which they cultivate from various internet fora. One of the benefits of their work is that you begin to see that requests for free work pull from a very small bucket of pitiful psychological tricks and tactics. Once you can recognize these tricks and tactics, you can ignore them.
“I am brilliant, hear me roar” a.k.a “You’re lucky I’m asking.”
I am going to be VERY picky and detail oriented, so I trust that it will be worth it to me if I end up having to share my [future] fortunes.
— For Exposure (@forexposure_txt) July 25, 2013
Like the popular kids in high school that made fun of your Star Trek: The Next Generation communicator pin before asking for your math homework, these people don’t actually see you as an independent human being, they see you as a means to get what they want.
you will carry me to fame and fortune. This is good for you on two levels: fame and fortune, and having done a good deed.
— For Exposure (@forexposure_txt) July 15, 2013
Why would they possibly think this could work?
Well, because we’re all social creatures. And as social creatures we like being close to those who have things we find socially valuable, like popularity or power. The closer we are to people with popularity or power, the easier it is for us to get popularity or power.
But let’s be honest: you aren’t going to gain popularity or power from a stranger on the internet you’ve never had any other interaction with. It’d be like going to the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan and expecting to get rich as a result.
To truly be able to trade in these social goods, you need a relationship in which to trade. Subscribing to the same message board is not a relationship.
If you are going to work for free with someone in an attempt to gain power or popularity, or some other intangible social good, choose someone you know and already trust. Those people will have a stronger motivation to take good care of you.
“I’m not asking for a whole lot; why are you being so demanding?”
These are the folks that belittle your work before you’ve even started. You are a formality, an ugly necessity, for them to get what they want.
All you're doing is the art. Yes, it's an important part, but you're not automatically doing more work just because you think you are.
— For Exposure (@forexposure_txt) July 12, 2013
I think some of these people are just ignorant; they don’t understand what they’re asking for. If you come across this type of person, educate them so they don’t do it again.
The rest of the people who make this kind of request do know that they’re being ridiculous, but they are banking on the fact that you feel bad about your skills as a freelancer.
Do you drown your sorrows in Franzia wine because you don't have a brilliant idea to harness your awesome Flash skills?
— For Exposure (@forexposure_txt) July 17, 2013
These folks are intentionally setting up the situation to take advantage of the fact that you feel guilty about not having a “real” job and that you doubt whether you’ll ever be able to “make it.” They are hoping that by sparking your insecurity, they can get work out of you. They want you to feel like a jerk.
Why are designers constantly read the riot act by self-righteous artists when all they're dong is looking for a helping hand?
— For Exposure (@forexposure_txt) July 16, 2013
Maybe they want you to feel like a jerk because they feel like jerks for asking for free work, or maybe they didn’t have a good home life growing up, or maybe their dog just died. It doesn’t matter.
No one, no one, gets work from you because they’ve made you feel bad about yourself.
Life is too short. Move on.
“Won’t someone just help me? Please?”
All I need is someone to make me look way better than I am.
— For Exposure (@forexposure_txt) August 6, 2013
In a weird way, I think these can be the requests that are hardest to resist.
Here’s a guy (or gal; though they’re hardly ever gals) just trying to make a thing, trying to make the world a better place.
And no one will help them.
They are alone in the world.
You are their only hope.
i just feel like a real artist would have faith in others because its hard for some artists to get faith from others and/or exposure.
— For Exposure (@forexposure_txt) July 14, 2013
I am working on what will inevitably be a very LONG series that will span the entire history of human civilization. I have no money
— For Exposure (@forexposure_txt) July 14, 2013
Here’s a secret: someone else’s poor business planning is not your fault.
Just because they don’t know how to get a comic or album or film from concept to reality doesn’t mean you’re required to help them. Hitching yourself to their poorly thought out horse is a bad idea.
I think these folks are hardest to turn down because they sound the most like a collaborator. “I’m just an artist, looking for another artist to make a beautiful thing.”
But if they are fumbling around for a stranger to work with, they aren’t a collaborator.
If they were looking for a collaborator, they would care about who they work with and they would spend the time and energy to build relationships with other artists. They’d go to conventions and meet ups and signings to meet people and talk about their project. They’d try to find someone they had a creative connection with.
Just like you do.
They wouldn’t be trolling on the internet looking for just any jerk who was willing to say “yes!”
True collaboration is very, very, very (very!) different from asking for a stranger to work on your stuff for free.
Come back next week when I’ll talk about how to ask for someone’s time or talent when you don’t have a lot of cash and you don’t want to be a jerk. There is a polite way of asking people to work with you when you don’t have a ton of money to spend.
Until then: Don’t Work For Free!
Categories: The Rest