Posts filed under 'pro bono'

Don’t Work for Free

Add comment January 28th, 2012

I talk a great deal about how I despise crowdsourcing, contests, and predatory jobs boards that encourage freelancers to underbid each other. So I am definitely on the side of not working without a paying agreement in place. But every once in a while a potential client shows up with a possible project that is so attractive and enticing to me that I actually begin to spend time, plan, and even put together some typeface and page samples into a page layout doc.

It’s embarrassing when I find myself ignoring my own paradigm.

Mind you, this does not happen often. But when it does, I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about the possibilities for such a project or even more time trying to turn off my thoughts about a book I have not yet been offered.

Just a few such book design/layout projects are: the mini-coffee table book of photoessays about historic Waco, Texas; a novel containing all kinds of text material besides the straight narrative of the story; a series of health-related texts; a new edition of a community cookbook; and a two-book set based on a father’s letters to his children. Each of these contained challenges that had me sketching page shapes and grids; and each prodded me to print combinations of typefaces that might be used in their production.

The enthusiasm that causes me to break that rule I have against working for free—except for the occasional pro bono project or the book that I am so high on that I take for less than the job is worth—comes about only when I am over-ready for a book to work on and something shows up on my doorstep that I have never quite seen before.

But I am always on guard with my back permanently up against those trying to get free work on something they plan to sell.

Win-Win …

2 comments March 21st, 2011

I thought it would be good for me to report on my involvement in the Writers for the Red Cross online auction. My item, the design and layout of a book, wound up bidding up at the top of the week’s proceeds. For that I am truly happy for the Red Cross.

As it turned out, the winner is a new small press run by someone for whom I have done book design and layout work at his “day job” at a college press.

So this resulted in a very definite win-win, as I had yet to work for him at the new outfit and he knows my work. Plus the Red Cross, at this time especially, can really use some support. They happen to be what I call a legitimate non-profit. That’s very important when it comes to performing work for free.

Spec work, crowdsourcing, and contests are—until proven otherwise to me—avenues for profit-making ventures (or those trying desperately to be such) to parasitically suck the blood from people trying very hard to keep their head above water and earn an honest day’s pay. Unlike these entities and individuals who solicit spec work and the rest.

If a person or company seeking to do business cannot or will not afford to pay for goods and services they need to conduct business, they should not be in business. Sports franchises get away with this, as any individual professional sport league in the U.S. seeks to guarantee all its teams a profit; and I have, for some time, found the practice un-American and flying in the face of our capitalist system. And I tend to like capitalism.

All the nonsense about working “for exposure” being good for novices is nonsense when it comes, again, to working for businesses seeking to turn a profit. All that is exposed is the workers desperation and refusal to value their own effort.

If one wants to work for nothing more than exposure, I always suggest finding a pro bono project from a legitimate non-profit. Which brings me back to the Red Cross and the online auction. I cannot recommend highly enough the value of this kind of working for free. In my case, adding this last in, it was a win-win-win.

Interestingly, I was contacted after the auction closed and a winner was announced, by one of the bidders who had not submitted the winning bid. She expressed an interest in contracting my services and, although we have not yet struck a deal—I believe we very possibly will—I think this proves the value of this kind of exposure, instead of working for, essentially, chiselers trying to get something for nothing at the same time they look to make a profit. So this may very well wind up a win-win-win-win sitch.


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