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You Should Not Work For Free.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I have strong opinions about fair payment for work (see the Fair Prices for Crafting posts). If you are working a full-time job, no matter what the job is, you should be able to live off your job. That means if you are a professional knitter, your knitting should pay for your life needs. It does not matter whether you are a writer, or an artist, or a cashier, or a carpenter, or a nurse – your job should support you.

I can totally understand if somebody asks me about pricing for, say, a dress; I tell them what to expect, and the answer to this is “well, thanks but no thanks”. I do know that having a dress or some other garment made to measure, sewn by hand, possibly using special materials will be beyond what a lot of people (and incidentally also quite a few institutions such as museums) are willing or able to spend. I am fine with that. I’m also fine with getting together with the prospective client to explore possibilities and alternatives that will result in finding a different plan of action, and both of us being happy with the price point for that. If that is not an option, I don’t care whether the “no thanks” is due to not being willing, or not being able. There’s a reason that I have arrived at the pricing I’ve given, and doing the same work for less will not work out in my favour.

The calculations I make for my offers, whether it’s a service (such as making a garment), teaching, or the goods I offer in the online shop and at my stall at markets, are solid. The prices I charge do allow me to support myself. I’m not calculating overly generously for my benefit, though – if there’s a slow period with few sales and few or no projects, I can definitely feel it, and my one-woman company still falls into the “small microbusiness” category.There are occasions when it is necessary to put in some work to make a proper offer for something, so I’ll do research and planning and calculations, and I don’t get money for this unless the offer is accepted – but that is normal, and that is acceptable, and something that is calculated for. But something I will not do at all? Definitely not? Work for free. Or for “exposure”, which basically means “go work for free for us, and we will tell a lot of people so you might have trouble explaining later why you won’t go on working for free for others, too”.
I also get cranky if I get asked, by some institution or company that does turn a profit, to work under my price point. This does happen rarely these days, by the way – but it does still happen occasionally. Professional work should be paid.If you’re wondering what brought on this ramble, it’s the “offer” of the World Fantasy Convention to submit a new award design. Key phrase here is “there will be no monetary remuneration.” Yes. For an award design that will be used for nobody knows how long. That they want to have all copyright for.Much to my happiness, this “offer” has already led to several people stating very, very clearly that it is a bad offer, and a bad idea to submit artwork for it. Jim Hines writes about working for exposure only (though not directly linking to the Award Kerfuffle). Mary Robinette Kowal has strong feelings about the award specs and whole thing. John Picacio already posted about the issue in November 2015. I’m really curious to see how all this will turn out – and whether the critical voices will lead to a change in the submission guidelines or not.

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