Working for free (but working for yourself)
Freelancers, writers, designers, photographers–there’s always an opportunity to work for free.
There are countless websites and causes and clients that will happily take your work in exchange for exposure.
And in some settings, this makes perfect sense. You might be making a contribution to a cause you care about, or, more likely, honing your craft at the same time that you get credibility and attention for your work.
But just because you’re working for free doesn’t mean you should give away all your upsides.
Consider the major publishing platforms that are happy to host your work, but you need to sign away your copyright. Or get no credit. Or give the publisher the right to change your work in any way they see fit, or to use your image (in perpetuity) and your reputation for commercial gain without your oversight or participation…
Now, more than ever, you have the power to say “no” to that.
Because they can’t publish you better than you can publish yourself.
It doesn’t matter if these are their standard clauses. They might be standard for them, but they don’t have to be standard for you and for your career.
Here’s the thing: you’re going to be doing this for a long time. The clients you get in the future will be the direct result of the clients you take today. The legacy of your work down the road will be related to the quality of the work you do today.
It’s your destiny and you should own it.
Freelancers of all kinds need to be in a hurry. Not a hurry to give in to one-sided deals and lousy clients. Instead, we need to be in a hurry to share our bravest work, in a hurry to lean into the opportunity, in a hurry to make work that people would miss if it were gone.