Asking Professionals to Work for Free

We are big fans of value pricing at TAR Productions. We’ve preached, practiced, taught others and have seen the rewards of value pricing for our clients such as Quiksilver, Peter Harsch Prosthetics and Helping Haitian Angels.

We’ve outlined how we budget projects and make sure we’re running a business at a profit.

We do this because we love what we do. We care about our industry and have taken it upon ourselves to leave it a better place than when we started. There will always be someone willing to work less than you are, which is why we stopped competing on price several years ago.

We don’t get a lot of requests to work for free, but they do occasionally come in. I’ve never understood this for a video production company. Although it’s poor practice, advertising agencies do this fairly frequently in hopes (I stress hope) of winning new business.

What professionals think when you ask for free work. #saynotospec

I met up with a friend from an agency also headquartered in San Diego recently and we started talking business. He candidly let me know about two pitches for huge brands that they lost.

One brand they lost on the first round, the other brand they lost on the last round. By his estimate, the company had spent over $60,000 on salaries alone for those pitches.

The look on his face was pure disaster.

The agency is really talented and it’s portfolio alone easily proved they were worth their weight in salt for these brands. It’s unfortunate and brutal.

It’s time we all said no to spec.

If we’re professionals…

Any professional has an expectation to get paid for his or her work, and rightly so. Being a professional means much more than this, however. Being a professional not only means that you are skilled in your trade or profession, but you are an expert. you have studied your field, practiced in it, put years of hard work in and have made an impact in your industry.

Architects, personal trainers, lawyers, real estate professionals, developers, marketers (this list goes on forever) don’t work for free. But creatives do! But, why?

Why do creatives work for free? Is it because we love our craft so much we want to live it every single day? Is it because with the right opportunity that lets us express ourselves uniquely we can gain equity and/or credibility that will take our careers to unprecedented levels? I assume so.

But can a new building do the same for an architect? Yeah. Can a new, high profile client do the same for a personal trainer? Definitely. Can a huge case do the same for a lawyer? Absolutely. Do you see anyone in those professions working for free? No, never.

ZuluAlphaKilo put together this video of other professions reactions to working for free:

You want it FREE??? #saynotospec

When a client begs for free work, say no. #saynotospec

We work with agencies pretty regularly. It’s great to partner with other creatives who have taken the time to understand a brand and come up with ideas to enhance their presence. We love to execute on their ideas.

To produce a video it takes a small army of talented crew. It takes plenty of gear (look through our Instagram account for Behind the Scenes photos). These hard costs are reason enough for us to never work for free.

It’s understandable that everyone has a budget. But only so much can be done with limited budgets. When talking with prospective clients we typically stay away from talking about our costs, we talk about value- something that is far more important for both parties.

Hate working for free? Download our free budget templates now and quickly see if you’re making a profit or not.

Next time someone approaches you about work for free show them this blog post or the video above.

What are your thoughts on working for free and value pricing? Let us know in the comments below!