Yes, I know that I am queen of “don’t work for free”, president of “say no to exposure” and empress of “if you can’t pay me, don’t talk to me” but I’m also the ruler of ” blunt and real advice” so here we go. Sometimes there are circumstances when you can work for exposure. Cue gasp. Okay now that’s out of the way, we have to be realistic sometimes. The remote work and freelance work industry is saturated with people from around the world. If you’re starting out it may be a wise move to do no more(do less if you can) than three exposure pieces.
The point of exposure that everyone seems to have missed out on is that it’s meant to expose you to greater opportunities without taking so much of your time that it becomes a burden. Keeping that in mind, any company or client that is not big enough to give you instant international recognition is too small to be looking for free services. Even though I do give Huffington Post a major side-eye for not paying its writers for the longest time( although I’ve heard recent reports that some writers are paid now) I can commend them for catapulting many writers into the paid spotlight. An example is Bamidele Onabulasi. He’s from Nigeria so it shows that you can become a successful freelance worker regardless of your country and that a proper platform can boost anyone to international paid work.
The idea of exposure comes from bartering. It means that for the value of your work, the platform the client is offering you will bring in other clients that will pay you multiple times. So when looking for exposure look for big name brands only. If you’re an animator, pitch to Pixar if you have to. If you have Pixar on your resume the human resource officer might stop reading there and you’ve already got the job. Think of that versus Kimkim Studios that just opened three months ago. Yeah, potential means nothing until it’s realized. Reality is most companies will never grow into recognition one day so thinking that maybe it’ll mean something in a few years doesn’t work. Track records are there for a reason.
Because you need to make a sustainable living and not waste all your efforts on exposure here’s a bit of a guideline on choosing jobs for exposure.
- You Approach Them, They Never Approach You
It is rude to contact someone to ask them to do free work. This is an example that you’ll tire of me giving but does anyone approach even the most generous doctor and expect them to work for free? Nope! People even work out payment plans if they can’t afford it all at once. The reason being people respect doctors. People pay for what they respect. And would never approach anyone they respect with nothing. And people who come to you looking to give you work that they won’t pay you for are literally “dissing” you( for lack of better word). And not one of them will actually be a platform that is big enough to provide you with the said exposure they are offering you. If you are going to work for some exposure let it be on your own terms and with a company that you approached because you identified them as a place that could give you the platform boost you need.
- Set Your Limit to Three
I know that I often say that everyone has their own formula to success but exposure can easily become a trap that leads into a downward spiral of poverty and disillusionment that drains your creative energy leaving you as a jaded, pessimistic creative on the verge of suicide. I’m not joking. One good exposure job on a big platform is enough to catapult you into relevance so three is actually pushing it. Just write one piece for Huffington Post, New York Times, The New Yorker etc and your portfolio is blown up. Now you can charge top rate.
- Don’t feel pity
Creative work is not a vital service like medicine. By that I mean that someone won’t die if you don’t write, draw, animate etc. for them. So the person that you really like that asks you to draw for them? Hand them your rate card with a smile (and you should have a rate card, even if it’s just virtual). The only exception is bartering where you’re exchanging services. Let’s say you write for each other or they make a poster for you and you write for them. That way you won’t feel used (because when you write for exposure for small platforms you do feel used).