We're always on the hunt to find the best deal for things we'd like to have. It’s no secret that companies hike up the price of products in order to make a profit. Whether it be a pair of jeans that cost pennies to make or the latest phone that cost $2-$3 to make, we’re well aware of how prices are set and profits are earned. However, there are things that we'd willingly pay a premium for because of its extraordinary value; prices we accept at face-value because we want to be a part of a rarified group to own a particular item.
A few months ago I wrote a piece detailing the ups and downs of being a creative (I am not your doormat). In this piece, I spoke about how important visuals are to any company. Without images, a company is nothing. Every company depends on visuals to increase its value and find a way to appeal to the masses. This is the main contributor to the high price tag of advertising and marketing campaigns. There are companies that spend millions a year to promote themselves through billboards, printed advertisements, and commercials. We live in a digital world where the images and content you have on your page matters - a lot.
The thing is, however, there are companies large and small that always seem to neglect the creative field. The industry has always been looked down on as not important or relevant enough to warrant a significant amount of money to be spent. There are some executives and figureheads in the corporate world who seem to spend their days doing little of anything - and then there are creatives, people who may spend hours, weeks, or even years to finish a single project. They give their lifeblood to ensure the product they make is perfect. Yet in spite of this, they are treated as if their work is valueless and irrelevant, as though their time is less important than other disciplines.
As a photographer, a line I often hear is, “If you shoot this for me, you'd get a lot of exposure.” Do they know how insulting this is to hear? When has exposure ever paid any bills? Their response to my dumbfoundedness is usually something along the lines of: “Well, it’s up to you to sell yourself to make sure you use the exposure to your advantage.” If a person or corporation is unwilling to pay for my work, why should I think anyone they know is going to be willing to pay for it? When turning the tables and asking them the same question - if I could hire them in exchange for exposure - the response is, “my work is very valuable and it is impossible for me to do work for free.”
Interactions like these are so common and have been forever ingrained in me, as it highlights the utter disrespect people have for the creative arts. Unfortunately, these conversations are not uncommon in the creative field - myself and my peers have come to expect them from time to time and have learned to navigate them. What always catches me off guard, however, is having the same conversation with family and friends. Which brings me to the topic at hand: I despise the friends and family discount. If I am asked for a discount of any kind, our relationship will change!
My family and friends know my struggle of being in the creative field better than anyone. In my opinion, the absolute last people who should be asking for discounts and free portraits are family and friends. It is bad enough that we have to field these requests from unknown people who are looking to save money here and there but to have to deal with family and friends who are looking to take advantage of your talents is not only disheartening but also insulting. To me, it feels as if a family member or friend is looking right into your eyes and saying your work has little to no value.
Friends and family are the ones you turn to for support. They are the ones that build you up and help you succeed. These are the people you depend on to make it through your darkest nights. For these people to look at the hours you've put into your craft and, in a sense, say they think what you're doing isn't worth the price you put on it is disappointing. It’s as if they don’t believe in you or your work.
There used to be a running joke amongst members of my family that when I get better I should offer a friends and family discount. I've never entertained that ludicrous thought - and now that I have gained some momentum, when I tell people I don't offer discounts they say I'm being rude and unappreciative. Family and friends should the first people to recognize your talent, or at least be as supportive as possible. If you don't like my work, that's fine, you don't have to. It is not acceptable, however, to say they want to buy a piece or hire me to have a photo shoot - but only if they can get it cheaper. This shows me you aren’t interested in quality - you’re just interested in spending your money elsewhere.
It’s perplexing how many times I've been asked for a discount by those who are close to me. I can respect those who say they want to support me and my work but aren’t financially able to right now. This shows your support without the insult that asking for a discount brings.
I hope we all soon start to recognize that when you ask a creative to work for free, you are doing nothing but belittling and devaluing them. You don't think the thousands of hours it has taken them to get good enough to add a value to their work is worth it or necessary to pay for. If you are one of the people who think that way, you're part of the problem.
Look, family and friends should the very first people willing to recognize your talent and be as supportive as possible. If you don't like my work, that's fine you don't have to. It is not acceptable however to say I want to buy a piece, or hire you to be a photographer or designer to make something for me but only if I can get it cheaper. That tells me a few things about you;
- You don't value me or the effort I put into my work because if you did you wouldn't say something so ludicrous.
- If you don't really like my work and you just want to support only if you get a discount, that just says that you're not really interested in quality.
- You do not respect me. If you wouldn't go to a larger entity and ask the same thing, why would you bring that train of thought to me?
It is utterly perplexing how many times I've been asked for a discount by those who are close to me. I would respect you more if you said, hey I'd love to support you but I can't right now. That tells me that you respect me and my work enough to not try to insult me.
All in all, everyone should recognize that, when you ask a creative to work for free all you're doing is telling that creative you don't value their work enough to pay them. You don't think the thousands of hours it has taken them to get good enough to add a value to their work is worth it or necessary to pay for. If you are one of the people who think that way, you're part of the problem.