If you work, you get paid. If you work more, you get paid more. These are two very simple concepts that some people simply can’t understand. After all, you wouldn’t expect people to barter with you for your services by offering you a sack of potatoes or a new pair of sneakers (well, unless you’re a photographer or an artist, that is).

But it seems that even though we’ve (mostly) moved beyond bartering, we’ve accelerated into the era of exposure. Yes, some people believe that promising someone attention is the same as giving them fair compensation.

A text message conversation between a producer and a potential backup dancer got posted to Imgur and went viral. The producer promised exposure for work, but the person they were talking to was having none of their empty talk and began texting people, warning them about the producer’s shenanigans.

Bored Panda spoke with a representative of The Freelancer Club, based in London, about working for exposure. The Freelancer Club runs a campaign called #NoFreeWork that aims to eradicate exploitative unpaid work and late payments in the freelance sector. Scroll down for the full interview.

A producer wanted backup dancers who would work for exposure

Image credits: vgajic (not the actual photo)


Freelancers should say ‘no’

“We are working hard to change the culture around working for exposure, experience, prestige and the promise of paid work in the future by educating new and aspiring freelancers. We highlight the impact it has on their career, show them how valuable they are and work on their self-worth. On the company side, we show them how paying freelancers fairly is better for their bottom line as well as their long-term reputation. In addition, we are pressuring the government to change legislation that will provide more legal protection for freelancers who are clearly being exploited for their talent.”


According to The Freelancer Club rep, some people or companies offering people to work for exposure instead of payment has to do with how much they value others. “Many see freelancers, particularly in the creative sector, as hobbyists and believe they can get away with ‘paying’ in exposure. They leverage their audience size, their brand name or the allure of gaining recognition. This is why services in exchange for exposure is commonplace in glamourous sectors such as fashion, music, and film.”

Matt from The Freelancer Club continued: “From a freelancer point of view, they are often told that working for exposure is a rite of passage or an essential part of building a portfolio by their teachers, college professors, and peers. This has created a culture of exploitation that we must address at both ends.”

“At Freelancer Club we take a hardline and suggest freelancers say ‘no.’ The issue is that some ‘freelancers’ are individuals with a passion who will freely give their work away for exposure whilst professionals rely on payment to survive. This muddies the water.”

The Freelancer Club representative told Bored Panda that they “surveyed over 1,000 people who worked for free (52% did it for exposure) and it showed how damaging it was to their career as well as the industry as a whole.”

Working for exposure hurts your wallet

“In the UK, unpaid work costs every freelancer £5,394 (7,086 dollars) per year and the figure is very similar in the States. If you give up your work for exposure thinking you will get paid work from it in the future, the statistics show this is rarely the case, besides, shouldn’t additional work be a consequence of a paid job anyway? If someone is willing to promote your work, they must value it so why not pay them! It’s easy to get into a cycle of working for exposure and never get paid.”


Matt said is that that the main reasons as to why people choose to work for exposure is because they hope to get paid work in the future, to add to their portfolio, or to use the name of the company who promoted their work.

“In addition, knowing your creative work is being seen by lots of people feels good and strokes the ego. I believe there is a correlation between exploitative work for exposure and validation of choosing a creative career,” said Matt. “Many creative people are told to ‘get a real job’ when they express their desire to do something artistic. Seeing their work in print, online or gaining recognition somehow validates their decision and, in a twisted way, proves the doubters wrong. The irony is that they have given up their value to do so.”

“You are talented—value yourself and others will value you too.”

He gave advice to those people who are stuck doing jobs for exposure. “Work out your day rate. Once you know your value, get comfortable talking about money and stick to your guns. We’ve proven that working for exposure rarely results in paid work, collaborate with other creatives or set a self-project to build your portfolio and keep in mind that the culture of working for exposure is very damaging to you and to your industry.”

“You are talented—value yourself and others will value you too,” Matt from The Freelancer Club added.

Dear Pandas, have you ever worked for exposure before? What do you think of people who want your services but can’t pay you in return? Do you think it was right to expose the producer who wanted others to work for exposure?


Here’s how people reacted to the text message exchange