Would you go in to work if you were never to be paid again?

Let me set the scene here: 

You've got a pretty nice house, but it's starting to feel too restrictive, small, perhaps you have a growing family, or you've bought too many action movie figurines or whatever. Either way, you decide to have your loft converted in to an additional en-suite bathroom - awesome idea! You do however come up against one significant problem; you don't have the skills, or the time, to actually convert your own loft in to a usable bedroom and bathroom - I mean, where do you even start? 

Luckily for you, there are people out there who've actually studied this stuff, and have the tools and the know-how to get this done, so you call them up, maybe you call a couple of them up, and you arrange for them to come out and take a look at your loft, give you some suggestions for what you could do with the space, not to mention, advise you on exactly what benefits the work will bring you - I mean, we're not just talking extra space here for 400 little superheroes - how much value is this going to add on to your house?

So the loft conversion expert comes out, we'll call him Alan, and he takes a look at your uninspiring loft - and you're in luck - Alan is more than qualified and capable of transforming the space previously used to store the artificial Christmas tree and your kid's baptism gifts, in to the master suite of your dreams. He's enthusiastic, you've already got a good space up there, and there are loads of options available to you - all of them pretty awesome. 

When you've discussed your particular preferences and requirements, and settled on exactly what it is that you want Alan to do for you, he sets out exactly what the job is going to cost, explaining what will be involved, in terms of his time and effort. And you're all like WOAH - because hey - you don't have that kind of money.

It's not all bad news though, because whilst Alan's got kids of his own to feed, he knows the financial demands that fall upon the modern family, he knows that this job will be super beneficial to you, and at the end of the day, he'd be a fool not to negotiate on the price. So he's open to discussion, he wants to know whether you had a budget in mind that he could perhaps try to work towards, or perhaps you could go without the Amazonian wild rainforest power shower in the en-suite and go for something a little more affordable? But Alan has got it all wrong. You weren't expecting to pay him. At all.

Of course you're not a complete imbecile - you have thought this through, it would be unfair to expect Alan to give up his time to do his job to your advantage, and get absolutely nothing at all in return. As it is, your neighbours at Number 15 have just had new double glazed windows fitted, and you've seen the sign that's since been erected in their front garden. Straight up advertising, "New Windows Fitted By (insert generic window fitting company name)" - you couldn't help but salute your neighbours at the time for being so honourable. So you suggest something similar to Alan, I mean, surely it's worth his time if passers by can take down him mobile number from a board by your driveway? Right? 

Weirdly, Alan isn't that impressed. You offer to through in a multi-bag of Walkers Crinkle Cuts - but he's still having none of it. 

Now it's not just loft conversion. Forget about Alan a moment, and let me hit you with another scenario. 

You're getting married (yay, congrats) - and you and your beloved have decided that your wedding simply won't be a wedding, without a wedding singer (hey Adam Sandler!) - but unfortunately, you don't know anybody amongst your nearest and dearest who can even keep people at their tables during karaoke at the King's Head on a Friday night. Luckily for you however, a very brief Google search throws up hundreds of talented individuals advertising themselves as professional wedding singers, and after trawling through, you find a girl who totally lives up to every one of your dreams. Let's call her Louise. So you call Louise up, and you gush about your amazing wedding reception plans, and she seems just as excited as you - bonus! You even ask whether she'd be prepared to learn an obscure 90's pop song that reminds you of the night you met your fiancée in a Cardiff kebab shop - and she's totally up for it. Then, oh no, she lets you know what she charges per hour to attend your event. That's right - she expects to be paid!

You try and point out that she does this for her own enjoyment but whilst she agrees that she loves her job, she mentions the fact that she's busy working on a couple of demo tracks that might land her a record deal and propel her in to a whole new career, and if she's going to do something for free - she'd rather be doing that. The cheek. 

Ok, so for most of us, normal folk, the above scenarios just seem laughable. As my boyfriend is forever keen to remind me: nothing is free. But it's for precisely this reason; the fact that the above situations simply wouldn't arise - because they're ridiculous - that I get so blinking annoyed when I receive emails enquiring as to my availability to work for someone - only for them to back off when I mention that, well you know, I'm not looking for voluntary positions.

At the moment I'm on a desperate work-hunt, I've gone from being the fussiest, least -busy freelancer in the country, to scrambling for any freelance writing projects that rear their heads from the over crowded job market. I even *whispers*, have considered just going back to a permanent job-job to supplement the freelancing. So; sure I'm excited when someone emails asking if I want to write for them, of course I want extra clients. But I get, and many don't believe this, an average of around 8-12 emails every week from people needing anything between 300 and 10,000 words written for their business or clients of their own - and they do not expect to pay for it. What is this? Why is this a thing? 

I know that I'm not alone, in fact I don't know a single freelance writer who isn't drowning in these bizarre requests, and what I find even more hard to fathom - is that there must be professionals out there doing it. One friend was recently asked by a multi-million pound international company to write promotional material for them - in exchange for a pack of "lucky loom bands". Yep. 

There's nothing OK about accepting services from either a qualified, heavily trained writer (or loft converter) or someone who's just got a raw talent for writing (or singing) and expecting them to help you out for nothing. They're not selfish, greedy, and they certainly aren't exploiting you, this is their job, just like your best mate may be an estate agent, or a checkout supervisor at Waitrose, this is what they do for a living. Even if, like me, they also do this for a hobby, that doesn't mean you can expect them to give you their time for free. Cycling is also a hobby, but you wouldn't expect someone to cycle around London delivering 5000 promotional leaflets about your new cupcake business for free, because hey - they like cycling.

Stop it.

N.B - if you have been referred to this post after asking me whether I'll write for your website or that of your client, but have explained that you "don't have funds available to pay" - you can take this as a polite decline.

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