70% of freelancers were asked to work for free in 2016

The nature of money or currency may be changing, but attitudes from budget-holders seem to be hardening.


freelancersMore despair from the freelance world, where ‘free’ appears to be somewhat different than the freedom such an existence is supposed to provide.

According to Approve.io, a ‘rapid approval tool that helps freelancers collaborate with their clients’, 70% of the UK’s creative freelancers were asked to work for free last year, and 9% of those did exactly that.

Those 9% are traitors to the freelance world, either really desperate or more likely useless. Why people do this is beyond this writer. Why not just mug yourself, pistol-whip yourself and let yourself steal your own money? These are humans acting like AI machines, ‘the architects of their own gravedigging’, as Czech author Milan Kundera once wrote.

According to the survey, the majority of UK freelancers who did work for free (80%) said they did it for the experience, while under-25s were almost twice as likely to work for free as over-25s. That 25, by the way, relates to their age, not their IQ.

“I think this is a serious problem. Working on-spec is tempting when the client dangles the carrot of future commissions. It rarely works out that way and can lead to a lowering of demand for experienced, but comparatively expensive, professionals”, said Sir Cary Cooper CBE, Professor of organisational psychology health at Manchester Business School.

Rightly so, Sir Cary, granted.

Apparently photographers, of which a whopping 16% worked for free last year, are the worst culprits, along with graphic designers, illustrators video producers and, gulp, journalists.

Cities with a large concentration of tech, media and creative industries appear to have a lower percentage of freelancers willing to work for free, the best being London, Manchester and Brighton.

“Aside from the ethics of requesting free labour, businesses are doing themselves no favours by attempting to get work done on-spec. You wouldn’t walk into a hairdressers and ask for a free haircut on the promise that you’ll tell all your mates where you got your hair done,” said Charlotte Whelan, project manager at Approve.io.

Indeed. There again, maybe we should all become hairdressers, that appears to be the only business where nobody is expected to train for years, refine their craft for more years and then give it away to any idiot who asks for it.

Monty (583 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.


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About Monty

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.

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