"By what right would you call someone and ask them to work for nothing?" [Harlan Ellison]
The Internet and the world wide web have given those with access and even the most rudimentary technology the ability to express their creative talent. Thus giving rise to many a profession and option that were not available just a few short years ago.
One could argue — and they have — that the lines between amateurs and professionals have blurred in many areas and industries. Digital technology has driven the cost of producing many things to zero and the availability of like-content and services to the person looking abundant.
Seth Godin has talked about this concept frequently, and so has Kevin Kelly.The good news, as Kevin Kelly explained, is that all you need is 1,000 true fans — people who derive value from what you're doing and will pay for that benefit. He writes:
the long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices. Unless artists become a large aggregator of other artist's works, the long tail offers no path out of the quiet doldrums of minuscule sales.
About a year ago, I wrote a post that discussed some options for exposure and visibility that was triggered by the numerous offers I continue to receive to contribute to new sites and online aggregators and networks — unpaid.
I continue to contribute to select projects in the spirit of open source and to give back to the community. However, because there are only so many hours in a day, I am being more selective with where I spend my time and paying clients win.
It may be connected with exposure, however without a bit of homework and a solid case on hand, you won't know that. In the absence of fair monetary compensation, fair exchange in value, or a worthy cause, there are more creative ways to gain visibility than asking others to work for free.
Here are a few ideas:
- do something people find valuable, then sell that
- write something extremely helpful to your industry
- identify a need in the market and go for it
- start a service for a group or niche that really needs it
- build relationships first, ask after you have given
And consider all of these items part of a process to build and establish your own platform. Kelly has a recommendation for artists and creators:
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.
Harlan's delivery in the video clip is a bit of a rant. However, he does make a point worthy of attention for those making the ask.
In similar circumstances, would you consider the offer acceptable? For example, knowing the site, conference, publication, etc. makes money off your involvement. Are you in a position to help someone else and make it a "fair trade" transaction?
[hat tip 37Signals]