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  1. #1
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    Doing work for free - what's your opinion?

    Hi CA,

    What do you guys think about doing work for free? I've recently graduated from college with an art degree but being honest with myself I feel like my portfolio doesn't have enough to find myself a legitimate paying job in the industry just quite yet.

    Going through school my professors have always told me not to do jobs for free. One of my professors told me if I don't value my work no one else will. I guess it makes sense to some extent but what about someone like me who doesn't really feel confident enough in their portfolio to get anyone to buy into it?

    Right now I'm doing an unpaid internship for a small game company. I'm justifying this type of work as worth it because even if I'm not getting paid for it I'm receiving experience as well as actual college credit which I need to actually receive my diploma. But what about doing jobs for indie game developers who can't compensate you for your time and work? They give experience and portfolio pieces too right? So would it be worth it? I've been browsing a few of the voluntary job postings on this site and they're tempting, but I keep thinking about my professor nagging me not to do work for free.

    Your thoughts?


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  3. #2
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    free

    Quote Originally Posted by JSpayde View Post
    Hi CA,

    What do you guys think about doing work for free? I've recently graduated from college with an art degree but being honest with myself I feel like my portfolio doesn't have enough to find myself a legitimate paying job in the industry just quite yet.

    Going through school my professors have always told me not to do jobs for free. One of my professors told me if I don't value my work no one else will. I guess it makes sense to some extent but what about someone like me who doesn't really feel confident enough in their portfolio to get anyone to buy into it?

    Right now I'm doing an unpaid internship for a small game company. I'm justifying this type of work as worth it because even if I'm not getting paid for it I'm receiving experience as well as actual college credit which I need to actually receive my diploma. But what about doing jobs for indie game developers who can't compensate you for your time and work? They give experience and portfolio pieces too right? So would it be worth it? I've been browsing a few of the voluntary job postings on this site and they're tempting, but I keep thinking about my professor nagging me not to do work for free.

    Your thoughts?
    if someone is making a profit and your not NO, and if they ask you, they need you ,also bad news travels fast, in this case your bad news

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    Quote Originally Posted by RangerX View Post
    if someone is making a profit and your not NO, and if they ask you, they need you ,also bad news travels fast, in this case your bad news
    Interesting take, but could you elaborate on the bad news travels fast bit?

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    bad news

    Quote Originally Posted by JSpayde View Post
    Interesting take, but could you elaborate on the bad news travels fast bit?
    in this case the bad news is on your part, the word gets around in the circle of art that you work for free, your value will decrease even if you are the best around, its like when people buy products the cheaper one is less appealing even though its a superior product

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  7. #5
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    I'm sort of in the same position as you -- I have a degree, but my college work and senior thesis don't make a coherent portfolio aimed at where I want to head. I can totally understand your perspective, but I feel that doing work for free sets a bad precedent. You don't need unpaid work to put your portfolio together -- you're perfectly capable of making the artwork yourself for yourself. Furthermore, you'll be better able to gear your portfolio for your own style and aesthetic. What good is unpaid "professional" work if it doesn't fit in with the rest of your portfolio in the end. Does that sound completely fractured, or does it make sense?

    Assuming the unpaid internship is legitimate (meaning they will not be profiting or benefiting your work or presence), I think it can be a good way to get more or specialized training, assess your fit in that field, and get work experience.

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  9. #6
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    This is an industry and you are making a product.

    Would you work at a crummy Burger joint, where you didn't get paid, not even in meals, just to get a small picture of you on the menu?

    It's the same deal.

    If you want to be taken seriously, don't work for free.
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    You're better off working on your own personal work than doing someone else's grunt work for free. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but rarely.

    And frankly the paying clients won't care about your long list of indie clients... they'll be looking at your portfolio.

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  12. #8
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    If your work doesn't cut it don't work, get better. Why flood the industry with crap?

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  14. #9
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    free

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    If your work doesn't cut it don't work, get better. Why flood the industry with crap?
    one more thing it shows desperation

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    Be glad at this time you have time to improve and post your best personal works. Don't take a job for free doing someone else's work and not get paid for it. You'll just end up wishing you had more free time to really work on stunning pieces for your portfolio.

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  17. #11
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    1) It makes no sense financially. If you are to do the same work for free than a paid artist would for an indie company, you are essentially deprieving yourself of paid opportunity elsewhere (I'm talking any job here) since you'll have to put the same amount of work in that unpaid job than you would in a paid one. If you do get a paid job and a free one on the side, one of those job will have to suffer and the amount of hour you'll be able to dedicate to each will be limited.

    2) The job may conflict with your improvement. A particular job will requiere that you produce certain result. These objectives are likely to conflict with the exercises you should be doing in order to improve. While you may improve working for free for a small studio, you will not improve as fast as somebody who would work for free for himself in order to gain strenght in the specific areas in which he needs the most improvement. Couple this with the fact that you'll still need an income and, thus, will have to work a second job (see above), this will leave very little time for personnal improvement and the little improvement you do get from the free job may be ineffective due to the strain of having two job. Working for free (for other) will thus make you weaker in the long run and delay the eventual paid position.

    In short, do work for free, but work for yourself.

    I'm not even talking about the moral of working for free or "the value of your work", just a simple practical analysis tell me that the benefit / risk ratio of working for free doesn't work in your favor.

    Unless you can provide another analysis which clearly demonstrate that there is some greater benefit I'm not seeing, I would not recommend it.

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  19. #12
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    Go here, follow flow chart:
    http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

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  21. #13
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    Thanks everyone for your input.

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    Damn that chart really nailed it Elwell
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  23. #15
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    If you are called to do the work based on being free and not on the quality, you will be recomended on that account. And is no reputation one would want to strive for.

    "oo but wait man, dont pay, i have this sucker that will do it for free, ill send you the number"

    And kindly ask third persons projects to suck a dick, if they are serious theyll get the money they need to pay you, they will not be offering promises of this and that, serious people dont roll that way. "Your certain it will succed? then squezze your wallet and put the money where your mouth is" everyone will ask you to put YOUR time, YOUR effort, YOUR ass on the line, and they can`t even churn out to have the money upfront for THEIR project. Guess what, no capital, no project.

    But wait and see if they move a damn finger in their own business without being paid, or if theyll not complain of getting ripped off of the extra 10 minutes they spend shitting in the office bathroom because their supervisor didnt count it as overtime.

    And set your fee straight up and ask for a deposit in advance. If you think it`ll scare people off, well sure , thats the point, it keep fuckers away.

    I have screened 2 jackasses off just this week that contacted me trying to scam me to do shit for them, and they actually have the balls to diss you for not falling. How dare this graphitte monkey refuse the privilege to spend a week working to do my stupid ass design idea without payment assurance?

    Every fool and their grandma will try to play an artist off, ask for respect first hand.
    Last edited by JDSart; June 9th, 2011 at 01:02 AM.

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  25. #16
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    so you worked hard to get your degree.. don't you do the same for your portfolio?

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    Also, when you undervalue yourself as an artist, you contribute to the stereotype that artists as a group can be taken advantage of because there's always one willing to work for less.

    It might be worth considering the impact that underbidding has not only on one's own career, but to the industry as a whole.

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  28. #18
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    Yeah i basically echo what everyone else has said. Never work for free. If it's someone like my mom or my sisters, or my GF then the sky is the limit, but pretty much anyone else it's a no. I figure, if i'm going to be working more than 8 hours on it, i should be charging. Unless of course its for a charity or something like that, but most of the time working for free is a bad idea.
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  30. #19
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    The internship is worth it since it provides credits you need, and some experience. I echo Noah and dpaint's advice, develop your work if it isn't strong enough to get you a job. All these work for free gigs are nothing more than amateur leeches preying on people desperate to do anything in games, sucking the energy and quality out of the industry. It's pathetic frankly and no one should be buying into it.
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  32. #20
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    Seriously, you guys are awesome. This thread is an eye opener.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RangerX View Post
    the word gets around in the circle of art that you work for free, your value will decrease even if you are the best around
    Not just that; everyone's value in the market decreases too because more people are willing to work for less (or nothing).

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    Not just that; everyone's value in the market decreases too because more people are willing to work for less (or nothing).
    Yeah, I'd say working for practically nothing is almost as bad when it comes to that, as in like, 2 dollars for something that takes several hours to do. Then you get to hear "But person X does ten images for ten dollars, you are so expensive". At least people might consider freebie to be a freebie, but when they start to think that ridiculously low pays are the norm thanks to inexperienced people asking practically nothing (out of inexperience, fear of losing their opportunity, bad self-esteem)...
    And though I personally am not losing anything if they think my rates are too high, it's infuriating anyway.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    Yeah, I'd say working for practically nothing is almost as bad when it comes to that, as in like, 2 dollars for something that takes several hours to do. Then you get to hear "But person X does ten images for ten dollars, you are so expensive". At least people might consider freebie to be a freebie, but when they start to think that ridiculously low pays are the norm thanks to inexperienced people asking practically nothing (out of inexperience, fear of losing their opportunity, bad self-esteem)...
    And though I personally am not losing anything if they think my rates are too high, it's infuriating anyway.

    This is what I'm afraid of, pricing myself out of a job. I don't want to be too expensive so no-one hires me. But then again I do caricatures which is an entirely different beast than the gaming industry.

    I definitely suffer from lack of self esteem and that is reflected in the way I price my work and people are always telling me off for under-pricing but most of my commissions come from friends or workmates which is where this all gets a bit tricky. I'm getting alot better at valuing my time now though, especially since doing some courses and I can see a real improvement in my work so I feel justified setting a higher price. Does anyone out there have any experience with this in particular? If they're good friends I guess they would want to pay me what they think I'm worth...hmmm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angel Intheuk View Post
    This is what I'm afraid of, pricing myself out of a job. I don't want to be too expensive so no-one hires me. But then again I do caricatures which is an entirely different beast than the gaming industry.

    I definitely suffer from lack of self esteem and that is reflected in the way I price my work and people are always telling me off for under-pricing but most of my commissions come from friends or workmates which is where this all gets a bit tricky. I'm getting alot better at valuing my time now though, especially since doing some courses and I can see a real improvement in my work so I feel justified setting a higher price. Does anyone out there have any experience with this in particular? If they're good friends I guess they would want to pay me what they think I'm worth...hmmm.
    I don't charge my friends or family, never have. If they come to me and insist on paying me money I take it because I don't want to insult them. Usually if its a freebie I let them know they have to wait if a pro gig comes up, and they are fine with that.

  37. #25
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    Well yeah, if it's close family and friends then i don't charge I just save them as Christmas or Birthday presents..but most of my commissions are from work colleagues who i don't know too well or friends of friends. But they seem to expect me to charge them less than a normal caricaturist that you find online for some reason, because of these connections.

  38. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angel Intheuk View Post
    Well yeah, if it's close family and friends then i don't charge I just save them as Christmas or Birthday presents..but most of my commissions are from work colleagues who i don't know too well or friends of friends. But they seem to expect me to charge them less than a normal caricaturist that you find online for some reason, because of these connections.
    Hmm,

    I would try and hold the line then and not discount too much. Wihen I was still working and painting on the side I would sell to my co-workers but they weren't commissions, they were pieces I had painted at lunch or before or after work. It was a take it or leave it proposition. If you are doing commissioned caricatures seems you should charge full price. You just have to decide whats more important to you underselling your work or getting the price you want but not selling as much; only you can answer that for yourself.

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  40. #27
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    What everyone else said.

    I can actually draw a parallel with translating here. I recently got my M.A. in translation studies, and started charging more then I did for my translations while I was still a student.
    What happened is that a guy called the other day, asking if I could translate a technical text (his B.A. paper on converting sound waves from something to something else, whatever, I don't really remember - it's all physics, 60 pages). He took my number from a guy whose paper I translated over a year ago, (it was 50 pages on electrical substations. I pissed blood during that translation, that's how hard it was) and to whom I charged far less then I should have. When I named my new price this new guy said it was too expensive (I did it for far less money to the first guy) because he's a poor student, and found someone else to do the translation (also a poor student, in a position I was in a year ago).
    Sure, I could have lowered my price in order to get this one, but I realized (a little late) that If I won't value my hard work, no one else will either. And translating is, just like drawing, HARD work. When you get something you are familiar with it flows faster and you do it sooner. If you get a text on power drills, you have to learn about them first in order to do the job right.

    Bottom line, you undervalue your work only ONCE, and word gets around. Later on, people take someone else even if you have better qualifications and give everything you have into what you're doing.
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  42. #28
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    I'm curious as to where people feel contests fall into this discussion. (As there is a particular contest for a particular game going on right now and I see people's art for it everywhere). I mean there is a /chance/ of getting something out of it but only a chance. And then I wonder what happens to your rights to the concept if you win and whoever created the contest uses it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mossi View Post
    This is an industry and you are making a product.

    Would you work at a crummy Burger joint, where you didn't get paid, not even in meals, just to get a small picture of you on the menu?

    It's the same deal.

    If you want to be taken seriously, don't work for free.
    For the most part you aren't really making a product, so much as you are providing a service. It might be tomatoes/tomahtoes to most people but there is a mindset switch that SHOULD benefit you and your clients/employers when you think of it as a service.

    That being said, free or paid work is all the same: in the end you need to figure out if the ends justify the means, and if they do, it's a job worth taking.
    Trial and error is going to be your best way of figuring that out.

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  45. #30
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    I do not think you can buy food with "exposure".

    It is not like I can go to the super market and say like "Hey I am an artist, I make free art for everyone so I can have all your items for free."

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