Asking you to work for free is not an opportunity. It’s an insult.

Joan Westenberg, a creative director, writer and designer from Australia, is an award-winning contemporary writer. She is the founder and CEO of branding and advertising (show all). Joan Westenberg, an Australian contemporary writer, designer, and creative director is an award winner. Studio Self, a branding and advertising company, was founded by her. SmartCompany has named her one of Australia's top startup voices.
Joan Westenberg, a creative director, writer and designer from Australia is a winner. She is the founder of Studio Self, a branding and advertising company. SmartCompany named her one of Australia's top startup voices.

The other day, I met with an entrepreneur who was looking for a content writer and marketer. We had been introduced by a mutual friend and I provided him with an outline of my fees and estimates before we met. We had coffee and discussed his project at a cafe.

He presented a lengthy pitch about his startup, and how it was both disruptive and synergistic. It was all fine.

He spoke of changing the world by using social responsibility to make a greater impact beyond his product area. It was all fine.

He started to outline his financial plan.

All was not well.

Despite the sinking feeling in my stomach that he was going to ask me to royally screw it, I tried to stay interested.

Then he presented it. He claimed that he did not have the funds to pay for any work. He said that he had forecasted millions of dollars in profit over the next two-years and was willing to give me exposure.

Despite wanting to scream, I was polite and thanked him for his attention. I also repeated the fees I had previously quoted to him. He was stunned that I wasn't more excited about his company than I was to work pro bono.

The meeting was not a complete waste of time. He paid for my cappuccino. Although I briefly considered suggesting to him that the Barista work for free, as it would be great for him to make coffee for him, I decided to let it go. Although we parted peacefully, he made a lasting impression.

This behavior is unacceptable. This behavior shows total disregard for others. It is a fact that you can't afford to hire someone to do creative work. You need to seriously review your business plan and/or learn the skills yourself. People should not be expected to work for free in return for future promotions, or even a tweet. This is self-centered and unprofessional.

This is what creative people will face every day. Its a constant, demoralising expectation. This comes from many people. It is expected that you are prepared to work for nothing and be willing to do so. You will be urged to seize a fictional opportunity that offers you great publicity and content for your portfolio.

It doesn't matter if your work is a writer, artist, musician, or scrapbooking consultant. There will be many people who don't value your work. They will appreciate the results of your efforts.

Designers value the design work you do to help their businesses look professional and draw clients. They don't appreciate the creative work.

I was approached by Jack shit to create free websites, manage social media accounts and campaign for them, and also develop marketing strategies. I've been asked to design custom-drawn flyers, merchandise, and album covers for many brands, entrepreneurs, and companies that don't have the budget.

Here's the deal. Paid work is the greatest opportunity anyone can offer you as a creative professional. This is all you need. You deserve it.

Be creative and be bold. Be bold. Be brave and stand up for yourself. It doesn't have to cost a lot. It does not have to be expensive. It does have to be something.

Entrepreneurs should understand that the type of respect you have for your app and service is the same as the respect all freelancers are trying to get.

You don't have to pay someone for designing your products if you are passionate about building them. This shows you care only about one person: yourself.

This article was originally published by Joan Westenbergs Medium Page. It can be accessed here.