Your phone rings, you’re excited. It could be a potential client. Your rent is due. Your monthly data subscription is about to run out. You need to get some work so that you can take care of these bills. This phone call could change your situation. You pick up, your ‘hello’ can make a cat smile. You have already spent 10minutes listening to them explaining their idea. Their airtime runs out and in the name of ‘good customer service’, you call back. They take another 15minutes explaining all the magical things they want you to do. You’re super excited because the way this client is detailed in their requirements, they must really have the money to make these demands. Then the bombshell drops, ‘We can’t pay you but we have a strong network. Your work will reach them and you’ll get more business.’ Whew!

In every creative’s journey, you will always come across that client who thinks they’re too good to pay you the cash that you deserve. As a creative, this will come your way a lot. In this article, I would want to share with you how to navigate these situations. When should you consider exposure? Is it a good idea? Does it even pay off at all?

First of all, note that

  • It’s not a Ghanaian thing, it happens to creatives in every part of the world. There’s even a Twitter page called For Exposure, that shares stories of this around the world. Understand that it will keep happening so don’t undervalue yourself when it does.
  • No client wants horrible design. No client returns to you because you did free design (unless it wasn’t anything important). If it means something to them, they’ll find someone and pay the person to do a great job. When you do a great job, the work itself does the talking. The referrals come organically.

Before you make a decision, think about these;

  • Is it a cause for social good? Even with that, is everyone else on the project getting paid? Sometimes everyone else is getting paid apart from the creative.
  • Is it a dream client? Is it someone you have always wanted to work for? What are your reasons for wanting to work with this person? If you made a decision like that, then it means you had your reasons. There’s some fulfillment you’ll get from that. In situations like this, you’re tempted to want to do it for free. But it should be your decision to make.
  • Is the value irreplaceable? For everyone reading this, if someone in particular reaches out to you, you’ll jump at the opportunity to do free work for them. I’m sure when I mentioned this, someone came to mind. If Nike asked you to design a new logo for them, you could consider doing it for free. That’s not advertising you can pay for. The stories that will be told around you and your work will be enough advertising to last you the rest of your life. (Nike will pay though lol)
  • What are your business goals at that point? Are you looking for brand awareness or sales? I’ll pick doing free work for someone who has the followers that fit my target audience rather than run sponsored ads on Instagram. It all lies in your strategy as a freelancer or business.
  • Can you charge someone for a similar project? If it’s not an extraordinary project and you’re positive you can definitely find someone to charge them for a similar project, you have no business doing it for free.

In conclusion, it should always be on your terms. The Vogue challenge on Twitter made it clear that every creative likes exposure if it’s on their own terms. Never let anyone determine what you take for work done. You deserve whatever you charge. Spend time and analyze it carefully using these key points before you make a decision. It is also important to note that, don’t eat your seed because of hunger. Sometimes some projects or clients are seeds. When you plant them, they’ll grow into a good harvest. Always analyze objectively.

Got anything you want to add, you can share in the comments below. Let’s talk.

Daniel Ampofo

Daniel Ampofo

Creative Entrepreneur


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