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Sunday, April 16, 2017

"I Don't Work for Exposure" - Creatives Using the SIAR Method

A lot of creatives get taken advantage of in today's economy. It is a truism that many think that poor struggling creatives should stay that way. As a result many creatives say "I don't work for exposure". and they can't be blamed for taking this kind of a stand. But I want to suggest to each of you that sometimes you are shooting yourselves in the foot if this is your answer to everyone who approaches you with an offer.

There seems to be no middle ground where it comes to involving ourselves free in any given project or offer. Either we overdo it and get burned or we refuse everything that comes our way.

I take a rather different approach to gratis work. I call it the SIAR approach. Its the four steps I go through whenever I am approached with a gratis project. Some may already do this in one form or another where others might come by it so naturally that they don't even realize its a formula for how they have always evaluated gratis work.

With that said, I am conscious of the process I use and I teach it back to my students so that they are not blindsided the first time someone asks them to do something for free.

1) STOP (S)

I've seen that many make a spot decision the moment an offer is made to them. Either "yes" or "no" roll off the lips quickly. Rather than responding right away just stop. Say neither yes or no but simply say "Let me consider" and then give the offer a good long hard look.


Now take a some time to look the offer over carefully. Don't just look at what is in front of you. Look at some of the things that are less noticeable.

First, what is approximate length of time the project may take and the hours needed weekly or monthly. Time is money and time taken from other things can be costly. Sometimes a project that looks complicated in reality is simpler or visa-versa.

Who else is involved in the project and who is creating it or sponsoring it. What are the networking advantages of being involved with this person or group. How will it affect your reputation and what kind of benefits can be gained from this association.

What are the long term benefits. Don't look at just what is in front of you. Look at the results of your participation over a year, five years, etc. Sometimes projects that start out small can expand quickly and the benefits gained are in the future, not in the present.

What are the chances of gaining pay work later and if not pay, what are the exposure benefits you might get from that project.

Remember that in the end, everything is about exposure. The more you are seen, the more you are remembered, the more you talked about, means sales for you later and staying power in the creative arena.

Finally consider influence. How can you influence this venture or help make it stronger? By stepping up as an influencer and not just a producer can create a ton of unforeseen advantages. Never forget that benefits are not always accrued in cash. The world is about making good solid contacts who know your work and whom you know their work.

Once you've looked at all the things that your participation may create, then its time to move on to the next step.


If you feel you have all the basic info you need, its time to assess all that information and make a logical decision that is based on both the obvious and less obvious benefits you may get. What does your gut tell you. Does it feel right or after your investigation does it just feel wrong? You may surprise yourself. An offer that felt bad at the outset may feel right now, or exactly the opposite.


Now its time to respond to the person or group who requested your services. You are now responding with the best information possible. Whether you say yes or no to the project you are doing so armed with the facts. But whatever you decide, respond politely. If you blow the person off or respond with a snippy, insulting tone or even worse you bad mouth the persons project, you are only hurting yourself and looking like an ass. Whether you think the offer is below you or not, you cannot know who that person might be associated with and how you might blow future, more lucrative offers.

In the end there is no right or wrong answer to taking on gratis work. But even the smallest project should not just be blown off. It could mean the future of your own career. 

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