“Rock for a Fee, Not for Free…”

“Rock for a fee not for free
Maybe I’ll do it for charity
Now my employer or my employee
Is makin Greg N-I-C-E very M-A-D
Don’t ever ever think of jerkin me
I work too hard for my royalty”

These famous words by Greg Nice in “DWYCK” will forever be my mantra. (along with “cut the check” courtesy of my homie Mack and Hollyweerd. LOL)

I’m not all about money, but it’s one of the things we all need to survive in this world. As a freelance photographer and entrepreneur, paid gigs are not a regular occurrence. If I were caking off huge gigs, I could afford to give freebies as I pleased. Heck, I don’t have it like that, and I’m STILL giving my services away a lot of the time. How many times have I heard the words “we don’t have a budget, but you’ll get a lot of exposure!” or “this will be great for your portfolio!” or better yet “hey, I’d like to invite you to this event. Feel free to bring your camera and snap some pics!”  THE WORST.

I don’t understand how so many people think they can get something for nothing. If you don’t have it like that either, but you have a meaningful product/service you can barter, or if it’s for charity, then that’s cool. But some people really make it their business to try to get one over on others.

As this year comes to a close, I’m realizing that in order for people to take me seriously, I have to be more serious about my business. I have a colleague who I often refer people to for videography services. His first question is always “What’s their budget?” I respect his hustle. And people know to come correct when they want to inquire about his services.

I think the problem lies in the “what can I get for free?” mentality a lot of us have in this here city. Couple that with all the hungry newbies willing to do anything and everything for free or cheap, just to get their feet in the door, and there you have it: the rest of us have no chance of making a decent living. Unless you signed on as a volunteer, would you get up each and every day, pay to get to/from work and do the best job you can do for NOTHING? I don’t think so. So why would you expect someone else to do it?

Photographers: How much would you charge a client for a studio shoot, plus extensive editing? What about if they also want prints? Even if you low-ball your estimate, I’m pretty sure “free.99” is not the number you’ll come up with. So why do people consistently come at us with those sorry lines/excuses not to pay us for our time and hard work? Maybe it’s our fault for saying yes… I think if we said “NO” often enough, maybe people would start to get the picture and take us seriously.

A lot of us don’t charge an arm and a leg for our services (whatever area of work you do), with the hope that staying affordable will garner us more clients and repeat business. If we really charged what everyone else did, we’d have very little business, I’m sure. Working freelance for almost three years has made me respect my peers and the work they do. If I don’t have it, I won’t even ask. I just wish others saw things the same way.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. I leave you with words from Hollyweerd in the aptly-titled song, “Cut the Check”. The hook goes like this:

“See I’ve been working so hard
Been at it for so long
Just asking for a little respect
So cut the check (4x)
I’m tired of living bill to bill so know that
And plus I got my family on my back
So cut the check (4x)”

2 Responses to ““Rock for a Fee, Not for Free…””
  1. Felix W. says:

    I have no idea where this started or why people think the free stuff is ok but its an epidemic. I guess maybe its because we are freelancers and not a corporation with things like customer service departments is why people think they can do it. I try to avoid THOSE kind of clients by only dealing with clients that have paid for work in the past. Those clients usually refer you to other people willing to pay 3/4 of the time. If you find a solution to this problem let me know, cuz I often find myself wondering “why is this happening ?”

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] write about my frustration with people who don’t want to pay for our services (See “Rock for a Fee, Not for Free“. So today, when photographer John Ricard (who also shared thoughts on working for cheap/free […]

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