For all the freelancers, photographers, stylists and creative directors out there – there’s always an opportunity to work for free.

There are many websites, causes and clients that will happily ask or take your work in exchange for exposure.

I think a -fuck you pay me- mentality in everything is extremely short-sighted.
In some settings, working for free does make perfect sense. You might be making a contribution to a cause you care about, or, more likely, improving your craft at the same time that you get credibility and attention for your work.

Monetary value is one way to get paid but surely there are other ways you can get value. If Oprah asks you to be a guest on her show, you don’t invoice her. She knows she’d give you an insane amount of value and exposure already. People who do TED talks don’t get paid. They do it because it’s great for their brand and their cause.

But just because you’re working for free doesn’t mean you should give away all your benefits. A lot of people out there will try to play you and most of us have experienced that first hand.

Consider the publishing platforms that are happy to take your work, but you need to sign away your ownership rights. Or get no credit. Or to use your image (in perpetuity) and your reputation for commercial use without your oversight or participation.

Now, more than ever, you can say no to that.

Because they can’t publish you better than you can publish yourself, can they?

It doesn’t matter if that’s how they work. What might be standard for them, doesn’t have to be standard for you and for your career.

Here’s the deal: hopefully, you’re going to be doing this for a long time.
The clients you get in the future will be the result of the clients and projects you take today.
This is key to understand: The legacy of your work in the future will be related to the quality of the work you do now.

Own it.

We -freelancers- should be focused. Not focused to giving in to exploitative deals and bad clients. We should be focused to create and share our best, game-changing work and build a community that finds us irreplaceable. Good clients always follow.

George Kroustallis // Minorstep