I Work For Money Like Everyone Else

posted in: Freelancing | 10

I Will Work For Money, Not Your Food!

I recently saw “The Book of Eli”, a post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.

The reason why I mention the movie is that it showed a world where money as we know it no longer existed. Instead of dollars, every-day items served as currency. Offering everyday items for services provided was a standard way of living, just like in the times before money was invented (600BC).

Sometime I feel like we are living in one of those times, before or after money was common currency. Why?

I am a designer and a marketing strategist. I work with small businesses helping them grow and succeed online. I am a business owner myself. Like my client’s, my goal is to make money so I can pay for mortgage & groceries, buy a new car when I need to, or go on vacation.

While I occasionally offer to work pro-bono when I believe in a cause and want to contribute, I mostly accept work that I’m not only interested in doing but one that pays my rate. In money.

As a freelance designer I come across interesting proposals by people in need of my service yet not very interested in paying money for it. I’m sure all graphic and web designers out there deal with clients from hell occasionally.

Some of the proposals are not so bad. I once had been offered to use a vacation home for a week and if my family situation were different I would probably consider.

Yet, most are ridiculous even offensive. Take this tweet, for example:

“Can anyone recommend a talented, fledgling graphic designer who might want to get paid in, like, home-grown & -canned tomatoes?”

Sweet. Though I grow my own tomatoes, thank you very much!

Freelance graphic and web designers are professionals who are in business and like anyone else deserve to be paid money for their work/creations.

How has it happened that there is a notion out there of hiring a designer to work in exchange for goods (canned tomatoes no less) and not money? Why is it that acceptable?

I don’t see people getting haircuts for a bucket of ice-cream or plumbing work in exchange for a batch of cupcakes. Have you ever?

Every time I see a statement such as the tweet above I am professionally offended by how much people undervalue our services & our work.

Dealing with prospective clients who are only willing to offer spare change for our work is frustrating enough. Wanting to trade produce for weeks worth of professional & creative work is downright offensive.

10 Responses

  1. My favorite is:

    “When I make big bucks with my new website I will cut you in on the profits. But for now, I need you to do the work for free.”

    Heck, that makes a direct payment of canned tomatoes look somewhat appealing!

  2. Classic! And you are funny 🙂

  3. Thanks for a very interesting article Joanna.

  4. It’s been my experience that clients get what they pay for. Those who want quality and no hassles will pay for it. Those who don’t want to pay often have high hopes, no budget and no serious vision of what they want.

    As long as you know how to weed out these cheapskates, you’ll be fine. There are plenty of good clients, who know what a mutual business transaction, to go around.

  5. And believe me when I say that freelance writers get it bad too. If writing were so cheap and easy to do and you only felt that $50 is plenty of money to write a sales letter how about saving us both time and energy and doing it yourself? Or outsource it why don’t you? Even better.

  6. Johnny, there ARE plenty of quality clients to work with, thankfully. Otherwise we wouldn’t be in this business.

    Lindsey, I feel your pain.

  7. Loving the comments on LinkedIn. Thanks Billy and Amy!

  8. This mentality seems to be generally endemic, especially among start-ups. They don’t want to pay for much of anything when it comes to knowledge or services. I’ve heard complaints out of financial advisers, strategy advisers, marketing and branding consultants, accountants, and, as a lawyer, I’ve personally run into the same problem repeatedly. Though I confess that no one has ever proposed to pay me with a bucket of tomatoes, I routinely get asked to be paid in stock (which, being restricted and often issued by a private company with no public market for its shares, is basically worthless – not to mention that in some cases it can create conflicts of interest, thereby putting my license in jeopardy). And then there are the ones who say that they want to work with me but can’t pay me until they get funding. Frankly, the only people they are willing to pay are the ones who bring them investors or other sources of money; and for that they are perfectly willing to pay what I consider to be downright usurious fees. It’s part-and-parcel of the devolution of our economy from a rich, diversified one with a strong middle class to a neo-feudalistic one, in which ultimately a tiny fraction of a percent of the population controls virtually all of the wealth and gets to call its terms on everything.

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