Anyone else getting disheartened by all the "collaboration" posts from people that are actually just asking for free work?

where's all the paid work gone?

I do think collaborations are important in the creative industry as long as it's equal for everyone involved but I'm seeing so many people asking for free work and describing it as a collab. It's so sad to see and our industry is the only one it happens in.


  • I have been begging for some form of block function on The Dots for a while. It could help with this but also there are some frequent posters on here who are... not part of a solution, let's say.
  • @Geoffrey Bunting Yesss mandatory budget input would be ideal. None of this hedging around the fact it's unpaid.
  • It is always very irritating, I know. I completely understand. When I see the word 'collaboration' being used I always assume its a code word for 'unpaid', so usually I don't pay attention to those posts and move on. On other occassions I will choose to take part in thier 'collaboration' for exposure to potential business connections and other opportunities, if and when they will arise. Its always possible. But I certainly wouldnt depend on collaborations. But the people who knowingly take advantage of eager graduate students who are desperate for work need to take a good look at themselves, because what they see in the mirror certainly ain't pretty. It's not honest, genuine, trustworthy, good, nice. I would ditch them and move on to the what I call the 'substantial' people of an industry.
  • Worth noting that "collaboration" isn't the only language free clients have co-opted, I've seen cheap clients calling their shitty free briefs "opportunities" or even challenging creatives to take them on.

    Which I wrote about flipping ages ago ( so it's good to see absolutely nothing has changed.

    Still would love to see a mandatory budget input on questions categorised like this. Not just "paid work" etc, but having to enter an actual amount - even if it's 0.
  • They're a permanent, annoying fixture. I do wish The Dots would include some sort of tag for unpaid work so it's easy to see and avoid, or some sort of way to force posters to have to visibly acknowledge that it's unpaid.

    I also hate that the word "collab"/"collaboration has been co-opted to mean unpaid work too, it really pisses me off haha from a words-person POV. That's not what collaboration means!
  • This is just how cheap clients are evolving now that most young creatives have it drilled into them that exposure doesnt exist. We've gotten wise so they're changing things up, talking about collaboration, or making out working for them would be charitable, yadda yadda. It's hard to police on a platform like this, but, luckily, these folks make it very obvious they're just being gross and we can, as a community, do what we can to call it out when we see it.
  • @Daniel Hawley-Lingham yeah I've heard that classic a lot! Exposure unfortunately isn't gonna pay the bills. I just don't get when it became acceptable to ask people to work for free aha.

    Just seen one today asking for a photographer to "collaborate" by shooting someones event?? lol - I just hate to see it, makes me so angry for the industry, especially knowing someones gonna take it on.

    How the hell is that a collab? I host an event and you shoot it for free is not collaboration loool :(((((
  • @Emily-Jayne Nolan back in the day (cough - stupid phrase) collaboration was not really a thing bandied about as much and people would ask you to do things for the 'exposure' - hahahahahaha - often people with no social or business clout - hahahahahaha - but they were going to be the next 'facebook' , 'apple thingy', '[or whatever - add your version here]' - hahahahaha
  • I totally agree with you.

    The only way to avoid this would be to prevent free job requests from being published on The Dots and I have been supporting it for almost a year, that is since some users started complaining about the proliferation of free job requests (there are several discussions in merit).

    Of course, if The Dots began to be perceived as a place where there are no more paid gigs, it would be detrimental to the existence of the platform and it would be interesting to know the opinion of the admins on the matter.

    I too, like you, am quite saddened to see so many people willing to sell out and when it comes to people in my network of contacts, I delete them. I can't do more.
  • @Daniel Hawley-Lingham Oh I am definitely ignoring them but I think the whole undustry should ignore people asking for free work.

    Yeah I totally feel that, sometimes it's great but like you said, has to be equal, I only really collab with people I know and love v much because it's a passion project. It's just crazy the amount of people on here asking for free shoots for their brands etc. - they will be making money off people who worked for free? Make it make sense :( haha
  • @Cynthia Kibirige always trying to get students :( taking advantage of people that don't know their rights/how to charge for liseencing etc. it's honestly sad. It took me ages to realise that I was being taken advantage of in the industry and it just upsets me to see it's still happening. :(

    These people all have budget, they're just not willling to pay.
  • @Victoria Barrell It's mostly companies that just want a free shoot for their new products or new lines etc. which is totally unfair. I hate seeing all the people replying like "yess would love to shoot this for you" - makes me sad for them but it also sets the standard that photographers should work for free which is complete and utter BS? Nobody should have to work for free.
  • I ignore all calls for collaboration - you should too unless you are just doing it for experience.

    That's not to say I don't collaborate but it usually develops out of some sense of synergy with someone I know and have alresady work with. We are open about the risks, commitment and financial situation.

    P.S. I aplogise for use the word 'synergy' - it should really be left behind the the early 2000s.
  • Hi Emily-Jayne

    In answer to your first question my answer is simply ‘No’ these guys have always been there and they always will. They turn up in some form in every industry – just the name changes: interns, games makers, volunteers etc.

    However noting that this appears to be a photographers thread at the moment and the primary skills a photographer needs are business skills, you need to use your business skills to see the bigger picture.

    Have you come across a McKinsey grid as a business tool? This is a derivation of this but the principle applies (the Mc Kinsey box is usually in an investment context and jargon). This version is well explained in terms of actions and outcomes. Replace Performance with Price, and replace Potential with Technical Difficulty – then locate your clients and the clients you want in the grid/chart also locate those asking for collaboration.

    What you will find is a huge low budget/no budget segment (bottom left) and all the collaboration freeloaders will be there.

    Rather than insult everyone’s intelligence, once you have asked yourself which sectors of the chart will build your businesses, where is the profit, where are the people who matter in the chart, the rest of the math I’m sure you can do for yourselves.

  • @Victoria Barrell Exactly! This mostly happens in commercials they know how determined students/new creatives are to build their portfolios. But they have the budget to pay them as you said.
  • I agree! I 100% understand it for student projects or unpaid editorial work that's for a submission but so many people use collaboration for things that are actually a job just to get around paying anyone.

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