Months ago while checking out “A Photo Editor” (great blog with great advice about being a pro photographer) a really cool flow chart was put up. The flow chart was created by Jessica Hische. While not directly created for photographers, it applies big time. Click on the image below to view a larger version, or go to Jessica’s site to see the full sized version. Please be sure to read through all the possible scenarios and laugh where appropriate.
I hope you’ve taken the time to read through the scenarios. I love them all, but of course I have a few favorites. Let’s talk about the “Should I Work For Free” flow chart and what I find “amusing.”
- Is it for your mom: Oh, this one killed me. Fantastic, enough said, close the lid and beam me up.
- Is it for a legit business: This whole series cracked me up. Man, do you know how many “startup” folks have asked me to do them a solid because they’re starting up? I have yet to meet a single vendor that wants to help me out for free for exposure. I blog all the time about one of my favorite vendors, Breathing Color, and I don’t get anything for that, nor have I asked them. They’re a business, I’m a business, it’s all business. Additionally, the “you’ll get exposure” from working for free for us. Uh, yeah. Exposure. When people die from hypothermia it’s often reported they died from exposure….. heh (sorry, I’m making myself laugh).
- The whole “Is It For a Charity”: This one slayed me right off the bat. The first question. “You mean a band?” Yeah, almost had to change my shorts on that one. Along with the laughter was also soft weeping. How many times have I been asked to do this one? By the way, not picking on any recent bands (Filabusta), those guys are my clients and do pay and I respect them. But I’ve had a ton of bands ask me to shoot for free. Her answer is classic. “No. Just because a business isn’t profitable doesn’t make them a non-profit.” Love it. In that same line I’ve often heard that shooting for “Band X” will get me exposure, and in that case I refer back to the legit business line. I don’t want to die of exposure after all.
Gotta say, the flow chart is wonderful for many small business owners beyond my own realm. I have meant to post about this chart for months, but it fell off my radar screen. Soon I’ll print it out and hang it above my computer where I work, and where clients often sit while we’re working out their needs. Figure if the chart is large enough they won’t ask me the kind of things they ask me often…..well, it might help, then again…… 🙂
I can honestly tell you this when I started up my business. I had to pay rent. Equipment purchases were at full price, no discounts because I was a business or a start up. Supplies were at full price (still are) no special startup discounts. My labor for years on end cost me the ability to work elsewhere earning. Advertising companies sought me out in order to make a profit. Utilities cost money. Etc, etc, etc. It’s interesting that at all levels other businesses expect to be paid, and yet the people in those businesses often try to get others to work for free for them, especially photographers / designers / marketers / etc. That exposure line alone is a business killer.
My final note, as an economist. There is no such thing as free. If you do a free gig you are costing yourself time (opportunity cost), equipment wear and tear (capital expenses), external support like lighting assistants (labor), and materials (supplies). You cannot replace a broken camera with exposure. When I started I did a free gig for exposure, and you know what? The “free” clients disrespected me by not being on time, not showing up, or changing their schedule last minute (3 times). After that one free experiment I never did it again. In my time doing this business I can tell you for a fact that “exposure” has never ever helped to cover any of my expenses in the long run. My paying customers generate my referrals, period.