free_riderFilmmakers and photographers are often asked to work for free by nonprofit organizations. There is usually something in return like experience, being credited or the opportunity to meet lots of potential customers. Seems like a good deal.

But it rarely is. Way too often it results in a big financial hangover for the creative professional. You get a round of applause, some enthusiastic small talk, business cards and then .. nothing. Frustration grows.

This is what nonprofits should realize:

  • Professionals do not need the experience
  • This is our living, not a hobby
  • Think twice about free publicity
  • Our work is time consuming and our tools expensive
  • A quick and simple job will damage the creative pro’s reputation
  • If everybody else on the job gets paid, so should the filmmaker and photographer
  • A paid job will always get priority over an unpaid job

These ‘free deals’ really need to get better. If a nonprofit has no money to compensate for the work of the creative pro, they should compensate with something else. I’m not saying this only in the interest of the creative pro but also in the interest of the nonprofit. A good free deal will result in commitment, profitability and beautiful work.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Pay with innovation and freedom
    Creative professionals like to experiment and play with new gear. Offer them the unique opportunity to do that.
  2. Pay with a paid job out of your network
    There is always someone in the nonprofits network that needs a photo or video production. The nonprofit should proactively find that person.
  3. Instead of free work, ask for a discount
    Between 5 to 15% is negotiable.
  4. Commit on a long-term partnership
    Offer the creative pro to be part of the nonprofits network with the same status and opportunities. We are your platinum media sponsors.

Key to these deals is that the nonprofit should make the business happen for the creative pro. The nonprofit should pick up the phone, bargain and close the deal. Why? Because the nonprofit is in the power-position to do that and the creative pro is not. Do the business for them and you will have a loyal creative on your side.

I have had both good and bad experiences. The worst ones included some very aggressive sales techniques like moral extortion by smiling salesmen. Then there were those where the nonprofit simply doesn’t know how much time and value they are actually asking for. But I have also done free jobs for people who really helped me forward. Some of my best and most innovative work has been made for free.

I hope this article inspires people to make mutually beneficial deals for free work. If a deal is good, people will be happy and beauty will emerge (add harp music here).