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Just Give Me A Reason

Alright my kohai, senpai is here with another useful life lesson.

Nothing in Life is Free.

You’ve heard this before I’m sure. Usually, it’s to remind you that you have to fight for what you want in life in some way; there is always some price to pay, a sacrifice. And that’s true and sound advice. But that’s not where I’m going with it today.

Nothing you take is free, for sure. But nothing you GIVE is free, either.

And before I proceed, I am not saying that volunteer or charity work is bad in any way. But they are upfront about you giving your time, talent, or money to their cause. You are rewarded by the good deed you’ve done; the help and support you’ve given. And that’s a beautiful thing!

But that concept seems to be lost in terms of freelance work. You’ve heard the expression “Exposure doesn’t pay bills” – many professionals feel slighted by the concept of giving their talent or skill away for free, in exchange for the recipient to “spread the word” about the service that was provided.

This is tough because when you are just starting out in your Creative field, it’s important to build a resume of your work. Paintings you’ve made, photoshoots you’ve run, voiceovers you’ve done. So you reason with yourself “adding this to my resume will benefit me, so I’ll do the work for free/at a discount.”

I’ve done it. I’m not sure there’s a single person out there who has not, at some point in their life, done something in the hopes it would benefit them more in the future. Write that optional essay for extra credit in school, work overtime (un-clocked) to finish that project your boss is eager to see, take that passion project offer up so you can use the finished project in your portfolio.

Is there a problem with this? Some say so; I say ‘No’. As long as you are aware of your actual worth as a professional, then I personally see it as a strategic move. However, if you can only get work by lowering your rates to a novice level, then you might want to re-evaluate where you are in your career.

My advice to you is simply this – unless you find some benefit to the agreement, do not do any favors.

That is not to say you can’t do a Mental Health PSA for free; that is a good cause and if you believe in it, giving your support is beneficial to you. This is like volunteer or charity work.

And if you get to a point in your Networking where you get a “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” scenario, take it! Because you will benefit from such a partnership. I always think of an anecdote a fellow voice over talent said: He did a free commercial for his dentist in exchange for free dental work. Just a good old-school barter system. Both parties benefited from the agreement, so it was a Win-Win Situation.

No, what I am saying is that in all of your Marketing tactics, you may be approached with a “lowball offer”. Perhaps someone wants you to do their Podcast Intro for free or voice a character in their independent project.

We artists never want to turn down work; it’s in our nature to always have something to work on. But that “oh, what the heck” gig you picked up will still require your commitment. You agreed to provide voiceover and I’ve never had a client (paying or free) not want clean-audio. Just how long is the project you agreed to do?

Consider what the Industry Standard Rate would be for the service in question. Ask yourself where this potential client is in their own career; are they a high school student? Is this their first project after getting their degree? What is their reason for asking for this service for free or below value?

You may evaluate the situation and agree to do the work simply to help the person out, or maybe you believe in the project, or you simply just think it would be fun!

That’s all the reason you need. Just remember to have a reason.

Because one of the most ironic lessons I have ever learned, is that the less someone pays for something, the more picky they are about what they receive. I won’t go into detail; I’ve read an article recently that advised talent not to speak negatively in any way about work they’ve done. While I do think that cautionary tales should warrant examples, I do understand the image that may present to potential clients. And just to clarify, the example I have in my head is actually still in-production 4+yrs later after my involvement. I will however say that there is a direct correlation between where someone is on a professional standpoint and the rates they suggest for the project; Marketing Agencies have more of an understanding what goes into the transaction than a high school student and their budget tends to illustrate this.

But, if that Senior Project makes you smile and you can carve out the time to take it on – Go For It!

Just don’t let that commitment take time away from you seeking out additional opportunities.

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