Your labor is not free. Your time, life, and energy and resources are not free.
Then, why do you give up your precious labor for free?
Thank you Cindy
This essay is inspired by Cindy Nguyen and her essay, “My Labor is Not Free”.
DOWNLOAD PDF: Your Photographic Labor is Not Free
What is Labor?
Okay, so to me… “Labor” is generally physical movement that is kind of “unpleasant”.
For example, it might mean having to do taxes, commuting, doing expenses, or anything else you don’t like doing.
The tricky thing：we don’t use the word “Labor” anymore. We just use the simple term, “work”. “Work” is used all the time, to denote both “Creative Labor” and “unpleasant labor”.
For example, as a photographer, I enjoy my creative labor. I enjoy interacting with my subjects, I enjoy composition, I enjoy clicking pictures. I enjoy choosing my favorite images, and post processing them.
Things I do NOT enjoy in photography：having to deal with fussy clients with all these “opinions”. I don’t enjoy having to send lots of “back and forth” emails. I don’t like to commute. I don’t like to having to “photoshop out” “physical imperfections” in my pictures, like getting rid of pimples, acne, or moles.
What do you value an hour of your time?
Anyways, a lot of photographers don’t see their Labor as costing them anything.
Consider, the time needed to commute to do a “Free” shoot. Let’s say you drive on the 405 in Los Angeles (the world’s largest parking lot). It might take you an hour to get somewhere. Then an hour and a half to get back home. That’s 2.5 hours. What do you value an hour of your labor? Let’s say the average person earns $20 an hour at their 40-Hour workweek ($40,000 USD a year salary). That means the cost of your commute cost you 2.5 hours x $20 = $45.
Also consider the time you already invested in “communicating” with your client. You might have spent a few days, messaging and emailing your client back and forth. The actual time isn’t important… the bigger cost is the INTERRUPTION COST or the “opportunity cost.” For example, wasting your focus on this “free shoot” for two or three days TAKES AWAY from your focus to do more important things, like spending time with friends or family, building your personal portfolio website, or contacting other clients (who will actually pay real money for your photographic services).
Do you like looking through thousands of pictures?
Also consider, if you do a “Free” shoot, all the time needed to look through all the pictures, choose the “best” ones, and having to post process them all.
For myself, I’ve shot a few weddings “for free” for friends, family, and people I like. I really enjoyed shooting the weddings. But having to sit down at a computer and choose the best pictures from 2,000 Images is stressful to me, and not fun. And it is hard to post process pictures, especially to make skin tones look good. And when you have mixed lighting, or when you use flash.
One tip: to reduce the time needed to post process your pictures, shoot RAW + JPEG, and for 90% of the Images, just use the JPEG images. If the jpeg image looks really bad, then refer to the RAW file and fix the white balance, or the exposure.
Show me the money
Anyways, also, realize that the danger of doing “free work” for this arbitrary “building your portfolio” or “for potential future collaborations”— it is all bullshit.
I don’t work for free anymore, when it comes to photography, unless it is for friends or family that I really really want to help, or for non-profit or charity things I care about.
The simple rule:
If someone or a company is making money from your pictures (either directly or indirectly), you MUST CHARGE MONEY.
Choose cold hard cash, over “uncertain future prospects.” Choose a CERTAIN GAIN (money) over the fake bait, that somehow you will get “future clients.”
The problem of selling your photographic labor for free：You will only attract more leeches, who will want your labor for free.
I’m not against doing your creative labor for free.
For example, it might be a good idea to do Free creative labor for VERY BIG and high-end luxury companies, or prestigious brands. If you play your cards right, your photographic Labor might lead to you charging $30,000+ for your labor.
But my biggest suggestion is to ALWAYS BE SKEPTICAL. Don’t be a sucker.
That means, know that when you’re making a decision in your photographic services, never get strong-armed or forced to do creative labor against your own free will.
Don’t let friends, family, or anybody pressure or guilt you into making pictures for free. YOUR LABOR IS NOT FREE. Every hour you spend on your photographic labor, is one hour SUBTRACTED from time doing what you might really want to do… like reading a book, writing a poem, enjoying an espresso at your favorite coffee shop, or reading a bedtime story to your kid.
When people try to force or pressure you to give away your photographic labor for free, you don’t need to “explain” yourself.
My suggestion：Just smile and say, “I’m sorry, I cannot.” And change the subject.
Nassim Taleb says in his book “The Bed of Procrustes”:
Don’t say “no” more than once if you really mean it.
“NO” is the most powerful two-letter word in your vocabulary.
Say NO to shit you don’t wanna do. Say NO to toxic people, toxic relationships, etc.
Above all, say NO to giving away your photographic labor for free. Charge money.
I always trust money more than “reputation”, “potential opportunities” or “respect”.
Always put more weight in shekels than “exposure”.
PHOTOGRAPHY ENTREPRENEURSHIP 101
If you want to make a living (or a killing) from photography, download:
PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS 101
- Chapter 1. How to Make a Photography Blog
- Chapter 2. How to Price Yourself
- Chapter 3. How to Find Your Market
- Chapter 4. Why Teach Workshops?
- Chapter 5. How to Build Trust
- Chapter 6. How to Market Yourself
- Chapter 7: Why Should Someone Attend Your Workshop?
KEYS TO SUCCESS
- Impatience is a Virtue
- Create Your Own Category
- HOW TO DREAM BIG.
- Will Not or Cannot?
- Why Not?
- How to Think BIG
- How to Stay Ahead of the Curve
- How to Invest in Yourself
- The Two Camera Rule
- MEANINGFUL DIFFERENTIATION
- Advice For College Students
- How to Thrive in Uncertain Times
- CANNIBALIZE YOURSELF.
- DO AND GROW RICH
- Does Fear of Punishment Hold You Back?
- HOW TO GET MORE FOLLOWERS
- How to Innovate
- How to Build Your Own Empire
- YOU ARE ENTITLED TO HARD WORK.
- PICK YOURSELF.
- OWN YOUR PLATFORM
- 10 KEYS TO SUCCESS
Table of Contents
Learn how to make a living from your passion:
- Preface. BRAVE NEW WORLD OF PHOTOGRAPHY
- Chapter 1. How to Create Value
- Chapter 2. ZEN CAPITALISM
- Chapter 3. Scarcity
- Chapter 4. How to Brand Yourself
- Chapter 5. How to Build a True Following
- Chapter 6. The Blueprint to Success in Photography
- Chapter 7. HOW TO BE BOLD
- Chapter 8. How to Sell Out
- Chapter 9. GO AGAINST THE GRAIN
- Chapter 10. EXTREME ABUNDANCE
- Chapter 11. Photography Experience Economy
- Chapter 12. Why You Should Make Money for Your Photography
- Chapter 13. How to Become a Famous Photographer
Photography Business 101
How to Make Money with Photography
- How to Charge More Money in Your Photography
- Why You Should Not Pursue Photography as Career
- Can Photography Make You Rich?
- How I Earn $200,000+ a Year From Photography
- How to earn $10,000 a month as a photographer
- Why you must be an expensive photographer
Photography Marketing 101
- Why You Should Do Photography Work For Free
- How I Became an Internet Famous Photographer
- Photography Blogging Ideas
- Why You Should Promote Your Own Name
- How to Build a Following
- How to Stand Out as a Photographer.
- HOW TO GO VIRAL AS A PHOTOGRAPHER.
- How to Master Marketing
- How to Sell Yourself
How to Hustle.
- Entrepreneurial Advice to My 18 Year Old Self
- How to Become Insanely Productive.
- 5 Lessons From Hesiod on Hustling
- It is Better to Beg For Forgiveness Than Ask For Permission
- The Free Way to Become Rich
- JUST DO IT.
- 7 Steps: How to Make a Living From Your Passion
- How to Do What You Love for a Living
- How to Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
- How to Fail Big
- How to Invest in Yourself
- How to Be Bold in Photography and Life
- Mission: Cover Your Rent and Food
- 1,000 True Fans
- The “10x Principle”: The Only Difference Between “Success” and “Failure”
- Make More Value Not Money
- We Live in a Photo Utopia
How to be a Full-time Photographer
- How to Make a Living From Photography
- The 3 Principles of Making Money With Photography
- Advice for Aspiring Full-Time Photographers
- Don’t Go Into Debt For Your Photography
- How to Brand Yourself as a Photographer
- Trust: The Most Important Thing You Need to Succeed as a Photographer
- How to become rich from photography blogging
- How to Make a Living with Blogging
- 50 Blogging Tips For Beginners
- How to Start Your Own Photography Blog
- A Photographer’s Guide to SEO, Blogging, and Social Media
How to Teach Photography
- How to Become a Photography Teacher
- How to Teach a Street Photography Class
- Why I Teach Street Photography Workshops
- Why I Deleted My Instagram
- The Social Media Blackbook for Photographers
- Why Do You Need More Likes or Followers?
- Instagram is Going to Be the Next Facebook
- Don’t Trust “Free” Photography Social Networks