You’re doing it for the “Exposure”

Above artwork by Matthew Inman, the brilliant artist of TheOatMeal.com, check out the original comic “Exposure” here.

This is my first writing here at Medium.com, which is from my understanding, a wonderful blogging website that a friend of mine recommended me to visit and sign up for. I’m learning how this website works and it seems we can type stories, blogs essentially, based off our own ideas, opinions and experiences. I’ve read a few already and there’s some great stuff, like the "Be A Fucking Weirdo” entry, which is a great read. Highly recommend.

My first entry, my first story is based off personal experience and it’s to do with the very image I referenced above. The idea of being paid for exposure, or in this case, “EXPO$URE”.

Full time, thirty six hours a week, I’m a multimedia developer and have been so for the past five years. In my spare time, I’m a freelance artist. With my freelance work, I currently do gaming web comics for popular gaming site GameRevolution, working on the weekly series GR Strips. I used to do some work for a local organisation, DBMAS, the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Services. They contracted me to create two separate animations, Keeping the Peace and 12 Top Tips, both of which paid very well but cost me a lot of something of my own, time.

Don’t get me wrong. They were great clients, I enjoyed the work and I got paid a lot for it, but in the end, it was tough to work thirty six hours during the week, followed by another eighteen to thirty hours on the weekend.

Time is precious. Time is valuable. A lot of us work very hard for a living and then outside of work, you may have other commitments that you may need to attend to. For example, I help coach kid’s judo at my local judo club. Maybe you’re a sporting coach too, or a tutor for children, or maybe you have kids of your own.

If that’s the case, I bet you don’t have a lot of free time on your hands, so when you’ve got some free time, you probably spend it very wisely doing the things you want to do, such as working on your own personal goals and ambitions, working around your home or maybe relaxing and playing the latest video game. Your time is yours and it’s up to you on how you spend it. Regardless of how you spend it, time is valuable, it’s precious.

Which is why if you ever do freelance work, you should make it worth your time and never do it for free.

I’m not gonna lie, but I sometimes do freelance work for free, which pretty much contradicts my last sentence, but to justify at the very least, me working for free is extremely rare. For a close relative, or a close friend who I know and trust, that’s it. No one else.

The above artwork, “Exposure” from TheOatMeal is something I strongly relate to. I remember a few years ago, I went to a friend’s birthday party and I made the unfortunate mistake of sitting next to this particular guy, a musician. I listened to this guy for over an hour, talk and talk about himself. I know almost everything about this guy. When he finally asked me “What do you do?”, I told him. “I work in multimedia.”

“So… you could like, make CD covers and stuff?” he asks, moving in closer as if he was about to quietly offer me some drugs.

Shit. I know where this is going.

“Yeah.” I reluctantly respond.

“Can you do some work for us?!” he asks, “For free?” he quickly adds, “You’ll get exposure!” He’s clearly excited because he knows I’m going to scream “yes”.

Fuck. That.

That wasn’t really my response to him. I was a lot more polite than that, but it took a while to respectfully convince him that I wasn’t interested.

One of the reasons I don’t like to work for free is because when you do work for free, people will often take advantage of you, even if they’re your friends. To give you a good example, two friends of mine once approached me and asked me to design a poster for an upcoming event they were running. I thought “Yeah, that sounds good, I can do that. You’re my mates, I’ll help you.”

Rookie mistake.

I found that when working for free, your friends, or in this case your clients, will generally think that because you’re mates, they can ask for whatever they want, when they want. You do the work they request, and then they turn around with such small, niggly little details that need to be urgently changed, just because some person you’ve never met doesn’t like it, or thinks you could use a different colour, or font etc. They will come back again, and again, and again, expecting it to be no problem when they return to you with a tenth change, just because they can’t make up their minds.

They try to be polite and friendly about it, but in the end they stop respecting your space, they stop respecting your time and ultimately, they stop respecting you. All because you’re doing it for free.

It was my own fault too, I can’t pour all the blame on them. Because they were friends, I didn’t want to damage our friendship by telling them off, or by setting firm ground rules or anything like that. Because my clients were friends, and because I, the designer was their friend, there was no professionalism. So it’s a fault on both sides.

The sad thing is, despite finally designing the poster and despite the idea of “exposure” for my work, I haven’t received a single phone call or e-mail from anyone saying “Hey, your poster for that event kicked arse. Wanna do some work for us?”, this was two years ago. Nothing.

With friends or small local businesses, they often assume because you’re good at what you do and because you work on a computer, that you can do things quickly and effortlessly. Cut and paste, right? No problem at all!

What they fail to take into account however, is that you’ve gotta do all this in your own time, under their time frame and you’re not making any money in your own time. You are costing yourself your own time, you are most likely adding further stress into your life, all because you might potentially get “exposure” from it.

In all honesty, if by the magical unicorn of a chance that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson asked me to design him something and offered me nothing but exposure, I’d hit that in a heart beat, because it’s the goddamn Rock, an A-listing celebrity with millions of fans and followers world wide. That’s a hell of a lot of exposure. But if it’s for a friend, or a small business that’s just starting up… well, there’s going to be ground rules, and there’s going to be a price tag.

I just bought the new Far Cry Primal game for my PS4, from Target.com.au, because it had an awesome price of $68 AUD (about $48 USD). That’s an amazing price for a new release game! To conclude my story, I wouldn’t have been able to buy that game with exposure. I needed to use actual money. That you should be getting from doing work.

-Craig

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