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Working for free, is it okay?

Working for free, is it okay? Some may say yes, some may say no, others might say it depends on the given situation. I studied photography at University and all my work throughout has been for free. I completed an Internship during my studies which was un-paid. This is the same for the majority of work placements you take on. My expenses were paid for, which was handy, but my photography wasn’t and that’s okay!
At the time I had minimal experience of the professional world, my knowledge on camera’s and other advanced equipment was still vague and talking to professionals I found intimidating. Therefore, paying me wouldn’t be advantageous to the organisation I worked for, instead a waste of money. I did the photography for an arts project with little funding, which I appreciated. I knew before I began that funds were limited. For me it was the experience that mattered most. I was in no position to ask for money as I was not a professional. Even today, as a recent graduate, I only class myself as semi-professional. I don’t class professionalism with money, or ranking, but your experience and attitude towards your work. Your experience and portfolio is all that matters within the creative industry in my opinion.

I may have worked for free, but I achieved a lot throughout the Internship which gave me a great boost of confidence and a better CV. The project director published my work on the BBC News website, Birmingham Mail and also in hard copy for the project’s book. I also had my photographs blown up on posters to promote the exhibitions and had them on postcards and flyers for people to take away with them. A couple months later I attended a photography show with my course. Professionals within the industry were asking us about our work and all the other scary questions that come with it, and before I knew it there were a handful of people who recognised my name from the project itself. One stating he heard about me in a conference. So working for free does have its perks, but its hard work that pays off the most.

However there are certain boundaries when it comes to being asked to work for free, or for little benefits. If you think your experience is low, knowledge of things a little elusive, and you’re skills aren’t as sharp as they could be, it doesn’t mean you HAVE to work for nothing. When an opportunity crops up you have to ask yourself a number of questions to make sure it’s the right thing for you.

Is this going to help me with my desired career?

Will I gain the skills and experience I want?

What will this opportunity lead me to?

Are they asking too much for so little?

Do I really want to do this?

 There is a lot more to consider, but if you find the given opportunity doesn’t benefit you in more ways than one then why are you giving away your time for free? The company will benefit from having you there, but you won’t. At the end of the day, it’s you that counts.

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