A friend – a brand identity consultant – asked me a question and I think my opinion might be useful to somebody.

Working with people I know or better still my friends or my brother’s friends, they always want free work and anytime I try to tell them that I am either not available for now due to other works I have or they will have to pay, they tend to back-off and act as if I am being proud.

Is it just me, because I feel like people think I am too young to be able to speak up especially when it comes to money/asking for money for my services. What’s your advice sir?

It has nothing to do with your age or person. In fact, it has totally nothing to do with you.

There are people who honestly don’t have the funds to pay for your service but consider if the relationship they have with you can help them get your service. You can tell from their choice of words that they actually need help. If you have the time, help by giving ridiculous discounts clearly stated in your invoice and contract even if it is N5000 but don’t work for free. Few people commit to what they don’t pay for plus they’re going to pay everyone else who renders service in the process of building their business so why should it be you who develops the first few important things people see of the business that should get no fees?

If you cannot help, such people will still understand.

There are clients you have a great working relationship with (who may never even ask for free work) and it’s good to render a free service for them once in a while even without asking.

Then there are the nuisances of human beings who lack the moral sense to pay another human being for service rendered. They always want to play on your emotions to demoralize you into working without pay.

They will not consider your free service as PR, a favour or a privilege which is exactly what it is so when you do agree to work for them, they consider it their right then they make it one of the most miserable time of your life.
They’re not paying anything so they do not need to commit to the project. They talk to you with disdain cos they’ve promised you some unquantifiable cowpoop such as exposure so any objection you make in the process of them pouring loads upon loads of crap on professional design process will mean you’re the one toying with what has been promised by lacking humility… But let’s face it, it is not for a lack of humility but lack of stupidity. But they can’t accept your lack of stupidity now because their subconscious (or conscious in many cases) tells them you must be stupid to have left a busy, paid for schedule, to be working for free in exchange for poop even they know they cannot possibly provide.

When they do refer someone, because birds of a feather flock together, it’s another vague promising nuisance of a human being who has no respect for time and resources, wanting everything for free. (I have enough personal true life references as regards this to fill the chapter of a book).

Don’t be rude. Politely tell them, thank you very much for contacting me, however, I’m sorry I’m unavailable to grant your request at this time. Thank you for the opportunity.

If they then ask to pay, don’t take it. They only want to use it to spite you for the purpose of tickling their poor ego. You will leave to regret working with such people under such a condition. (I also have ample true life experience on this to do 10 seasons of a series).

You can also suggest them to pay their offering of exposure/connection forward. Bring the connect, you get the free job. (This is usually where they start to vehemently speak in tongues).

Lastly, at that point where they’re almost succeeding at making you succumb by hurting your feelings for trying to earn a honest pay, convince yourself that if you were an armed robber, they’ll be pouring all they had into your hands before even asking, then reminded yourself you really had nothing to gain if you took the job so you have nothing to lose if you let them go.

NB: I understand my opinion and experience might be cos of where I’m positioned which defers for everyone. If you have ever worked for someone in exchange for exposure, enjoyed the working process and actually got exposed to meaningful clients through that person, please leave your experience in the comment box.


12 Responses

  1. Thank you for this timely piece, Yox.

    Most of these exposure promises are nothing but empty promises. I encountered this in my early years as a freelancer, and I shit you not, none of them has ever given me any meaningful exposure of any sort whatsoever – at least not any that would make me say “YES!”

    All the real referrals I’ve gotten have been from people who paid real money. I guess the real exposures came as a result of the fact that the initial clients that referred them actually saw that I placed real value on myself unlike the ones that saw me as being cheap or worthless.

    Thanks again for sharing this piece.

    1. Heyyy Eze, nice to have you here.

      You know, at one point in my life I was almost giving up on the creative career because too many people made me feel I had no future just because I asked to be payed to do a honest job. I’ve come to learn over time that there are people who value and respect people and I’ve learnt to say no to everyone else except these people. I’ve lived a happier life and had a more fulfilled career since then.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It will encourage someone else.

  2. I must commend you for this post. This is the illness i’ve been facing for awhile now. I’ve been able to stop some and they see it as pride. I once did a job worth 5k for someone and all he could do was send me N200 Airtime.

    Thanks for this piece!

    1. Thank you Jayvette. We have all had our fair share of experience of being used. With experience, we find it easier to decipher great relationships even from the first call.

  3. Hello Prof. You might say that there’s more to a designer’s life than a few branded webpages; but most times the rain doesn’t know it’s importance until it goes for a vacation. You’ve created a well of water for thousands of freshmen in the industry who needs succor. So again, this is not just any webpage but another organic Google for the design / creative industry. This story is already saving lot’s of people from the physiological manipulation of the pseudo saviors. I did learnt through this post. Once again…

    Thank you,

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How to Avoid People Manipulating You to Work for Free

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