Thoughts on Working for Free

So just yesterday my friend Seth posted a link to an article called, Slaves of the Internet, Unite!  Here’s a snippet:

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.

Which was a funny juxtaposition considering I was already getting ready to post a link to an article called Working for Free:  An Argument.  Another quote:

All the posts on this blog are free. Many videos of my lectures are free to watch. My Twitter andFacebook accounts let fans read things I write for free. Every guest you hear or see on radio and TV shows are never paid anything and when I’ve appeared on these shows I was working for free. These are all creative works I am not paid for, but I believe the total tradeoffs of these actions are worthwhile, even if I don’t make a dime from them directly.

The two articles aren’t contradictory, despite the fact that one was arguing for certain reasons for working for free (the Berkun article, the second one) and the other is kind of whining about the number of people asking him to work for free like his work isn’t very flattering.  In fact it can be offensive.

Art isn’t free.  It takes time, talent and it’s real work.  Many artists give large chunks of their work away for no pay whatsoever.  And that’s their choice.  But no one should expect artists (whether authors, painters, sculptors, photographers, public speakers…) to give that work away for free.  There’s a time to ask a friend for a special gift of his or her talents.  It happens.   If you’re having a special event I’d be glad to give whatever talents I can to it if we have a friendship.  But don’t make the mistake of devaluing someone’s art or gift by expecting it to be free.

I have friends who are authors or designers and I try to patronize their work.  I buy music when I can, even if I lose the CD, so that musicians get royalties, and where possible I buy from the artists themselves.  Art is important in so many forms, and while architects have found a way to monetize their gifts, so many others have not.

Let’s support our friends who are artists in all forms by supporting their work somehow, and for those of you who are artists:  share your work liberally.  And may you be rewarded here and in eternity for what you’ve shared.

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