Some Caveats About Working for Free

Forums Job Boards Collaboration Projects Some Caveats About Working for Free

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      Animation Pagoda StaffAnimation Pagoda Staff
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      Never Work for Free

      A lot of people trying to start projects will seek out eager beginners and recent college graduates offering a deal where if you work for them, they will help you build your resume and get references needed to break into the industry.

      However, there’s one little catch: they can’t afford to pay you.

      Most of the time the people offering these collaboration projects and revenue share deals aren’t scam artists trying to take advantage of inexperienced designers.  Small business owners and independent developers simply can’t afford to pay the same wages as studio productions.  It is expensive to hire one artist full-time, let alone an entire team when you only have a shoestring budget.

      Professional Integrity

      Most professional designers advise against giving your hard work away for nothing. It indicates you don’t view your work as professional, and also undermines the entire freelancing profession that relies on clients understanding that services come with a price tag.

      If one person works for nothing, than clients will expect other designers to work for cheap as well, which takes business away from struggling freelancers when people go to enlist free student labor instead of hiring the professional. Freelancing isn’t free, so don’t undersell yourself.

      Red Flags

      Be wary of deals where you are offered a portion of the eventual profits. Most startups fail, and a 50% stake in a flopped product doesn’t amount to anything. Always try to get paid something upfront or in regular installments.

      Walk away from any deal that doesn’t credit your work. Studios are not legally required to credit part-time or unpaid workers, but just because you are an intern or undergraduate doesn’t make your contribution any less valuable than any one else’s.

      Don’t sign contracts without understanding the legal consequences. Be especially cautious when agreeing to give up the rights to your work. It is a standard practice for companies to force artists to surrender all distribution rights to the company, but you should still be able to negotiate to display select work on your portfolio or website.

      Quid Pro Quo

      Realistically, having freelancing experience and client references statistically increases your chances of finding employment, so we can’t prescribe never taking an opportunity when it comes along. Even if you don’t get paid, there are still smart ways to ensure you get something beneficial for your work.

      Just be cautious and use common sense.  If a project doesn’t benefit you as much as your hard work helps out your “Partner,” you may be in an abusive relationship.  A true collaboration will give members equal say and benefit all parties.


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