Before we take a dive into Monday night's #blkcreatives Twitter chat on Freelance Life, guest Tatiana Walk-Morris takes a look at one of the most controversial topics in our industry: working for free. Her blog, The Freelance Beat explores the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers. Her post 'Questions To Ask Before Working For Fee' tackles an issue that we've all faced at some point in our careers.
Guest Post by Tatiana Walk-Morris
The media business, meaning journalism, film, radio, television and the like, thrives off of free work. Don’t believe me? Look around. From unpaid interns to bloggers to using citizen journalists’ photos and videos on social media for free, the media business has used people who provide free photos, stories, audio, videos and so on in their content production, sometimes in exchange for “credit” or “exposure” but other times not.
As a freelancer, I think of my bottom line as though I am a publisher. If I can’t monetize the journalism I produce, I can’t pay for my office (i.e. my apartment/home office), my supplies, or anything else needed to report and write quality stories. Therefore, I’m adamantly opposed to working for free, because—like everyone else, particularly the same people who ask people to work for free—I need money to support myself.
I can’t tell you whether to work for free, but I can tell you that your time and your skills have value. And when one outlet or client won’t pay, another will. If someone approaches you for free work, here are the things you need to consider:
Can you actually afford it? The ability to pay for something and the ability to afford it are two different concepts. Paying for something simply means you have the funds to cover an expense, but affording something is being able to cover an expense without screwing up the rest of your finances.