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Stop Trying to Pay Freelancers in Exposure

It hurts everyone in the long run

Nov 1, 2018 · 6 min read
Photo: LPETTET/iStock/Getty Images Plus

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“Um… I thought you were gonna do it for free?”

She replied a couple of hours later, “Yeah. My friends just had a baby and it would be cool if I could give them a portrait of him as like a gift. Could you do it like you did the other one on your page?”

Exposure Doesn’t Even Work

There are several reasons why exposure should never be offered in place of monetary compensation, but the most important one: It’s not an effective form of advertising—or even advertising at all.

“Working for exposure” and “working for free” are synonymous.

If I continue this cycle, I might get plenty of free exposure, but I won’t get any actual money for my time and work. Any person I encounter will try to capitalize on the special exposure discount they think I’m offering, long before they cough up $200.

It’s More Than Ineffective Advertising—It’s an Insult

Although my personal example deals with fine art, freelancers from all professions deal with this kind of treatment.

Exposure Work Is Damaging the World of Freelancing

Even if you’ve never been asked to do something for exposure (or asked someone else), working for exposure is still hurting you.

If clients think free advertising is a payment option, they’re going to choose it.

It’s hard enough to find clients; you really don’t need to deal with clients who also expect free work. As long as “exposure work” continues to be an acceptable idea, the freelancing world will suffer.

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