Should People Work For Free?

I've seen quite a few discussions online recently by people in the indie film industry and freelancers in graphics & design about working for free.

I thought I'd throw in my penny. Not two cents. I think my thoughts are only a penny's worth.

The attitude of freelancers towards people enquiring after their services for no pay disturbs me.

Of course a freelancer needs to survive. Nobody should expect anyone else to work for free, but when did it become "wrong" to simply ask the question?

I see Tweets and Facebook rants day in, day out, where some embittered freelancer has received an email asking for their services without pay or for too little pay. These freelancers share the email and write an indignant post which is soon followed by a stream of comments, all agreeing that it's wrong and disgusting and no one should ever have to work for free.

Note - I am not talking about people who have completed a job and not been paid. These are people enraged at the very thought anyone would dare ask them to do anything for free.

Now I believe everyone should be paid for their time, especially in the arts where too often people aren't. In my time I have worked for free, been paid and in turn I have paid others and asked people to join a project for no return other than the project or for very little pay when I have no spare money to pay anyone. The latter always disturbs me and I hate asking people to work with me for nothing. I have sleepless nights over it. I am a filmmaker and I really believe that the time and effort that goes into making a film should be compensated.

That said, I am disturbed by the anger displayed because someone simply suggested they won't or can't pay.

So what? These people are not forcing you to take that job and receive no pay. You can say no. You can even say no, you can't work for little or no money and surprise surprise you can say it politely, without sending a tirade of anger all over the internet.

Filmmaking is a very expensive craft. It just is. Ignore all the articles saying that anyone can do it these days because of DSLRs and cheaper equipment. Note the word cheaper - not cheap. Making a film costs an awful lot of money if you pay day rates, not to mention equipment. For a filmmaker starting out if they don't have surplus cash to use, they must rely on other people's goodwill to make their first film.

Is a freelance cinematographer who has experience and is making an income from his skill going to fire back an angry email to a beginner who is just seeking support? He can turn him down gently and politely - why the rage?

Remember, indignant freelancer, who you are truly angry at: You are angry at the client that didn't pay you, the friends, family and colleagues who belittle your job and think you do nothing all day, the many freebies you have slaved over, only to find your calls unanswered when it's your turn to cash in. That hurt is not the the fault of whoever just emailed you asking if you would work on a project for free.

If we allow simply asking the question to become such an offensive act, we are wiping out an entire potential hub of hopeful, up and coming talents, who's only means of creating their own portfolio or works of art is by getting help from people with skills, willing to lend their skills for nothing.

Remember, "There's no harm in asking..."

You don't have to be the one to help, but at least be gracious in your attitude.