Lies we WANT to believe.

“I have XXX followers on Instagram! I can get you so much exposure!” Translation: “I like your work but I don’t want to pay for it.”

We don’t care if someone has 100K followers on Instagram. I don’t know about yours, but my landlord doesn’t accept followers as payment. Only cold, hard cash. (Or a debit from my bank account… LOL.) Most of the time, no one even looks at who took the photos on Instagram… unless it’s another photographer. And we only do it because we like to check out each other’s work! I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been hired because of a job I did for free that was “promoted” on Instagram. Did I get exposure? A little. But did it bring me money? Not much.

“I’m building a team of people.” Translation: “I’m gonna replace you so fast the minute you ask for compensation.”

Look, we all have people we believe in… people who are doing things we want to support. But make sure you know beyond a shadow of a doubt those people are actually going to take you with them on the way up. Or only do it if you’re perfectly okay with never being compensated for your work. Sometimes, we just want to give our talents to someone as a gift. And that’s cool. But don’t go into it expecting a fat check. I’ve seen it plenty of times. People who think they’re “famous” (insert eye roll here) use up one photographer until he or she is burnt out and then move on to the next. We might as well be standing on the corner pimping ourselves out.

“Let’s barter!” Translation: “I have nothing to offer you, but I want your services for free.”

Unless someone has a legit product or service they can exchange with you, it’s not a barter. I trade out services with my hair girl. It works well for both of us! I don’t have to pay to cover my grays and she gets photos to use for her marketing. I’ve traded out my services for gym memberships. Again… it works great. But “exposure” is not bartering currency. Sorry. It’s just not.

“This would be a good look for you.” Translation: “This would be a good look for me if I get you on board for free.”

We all know the hype man/PR guy/marketing guru trying to impress the artist they work with. Of course it’s a good look if they bring on a phenomenal photographer who is willing to work for free. That makes them look good. It makes me look desperate. In most cases, they’re being used, too. And eventually they’re gonna burn out just like us.

CREATIVES: It starts with us.

First, we’ve got to know our own worth. If we don’t value our own work, how can we expect others to value it? Stop working for free!! Even if you only charge $50… just charge something. I remember reading this advice so many times and thinking it was my right to not charge someone if I chose to do that. And you know what? It is! But why on earth would I choose to work for free?? I don’t know anyone else who works for free. If your boss in oil and gas said he wasn’t paying you tomorrow, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t go to work. Why do we do it to ourselves?

Second, we’ve got to support other creatives! If you need new headshots, go pay a photographer to do them for you! Let’s not be like everyone else. Support your friends in creative fields. Buy your friend’s new single on iTunes. Hire your friend to do a promo video for you. Get rid of the ugly canvas you bought at Walmart and get a custom painting from your friend. The sad thing is, most of the times I’ve gotten burned has been by other creatives. I’m learning that’s true for others as well.

Third, we have to come together to end this and it starts by having confidence in our skills! If you’re not sure of yourself or your talent, please email me! I will teach you what I know. I’m an open book. If you’re interested in a mentor session, I offer those. If you want someone to critique your work, send me some photos… I’ll give you some constructive criticism for free! I honestly just want all of us to raise the bar… let’s stop settling for less than we deserve. If every creative in Houston quit working for free then they’d have to choice but to pay us because there would be no FREE options.

My wheels are spinning and I’ve got some ideas. I want us all to work together to make this city a great place for creatives to thrive. If you’re interested in hearing more, fill out the form below and I’ll be sure to keep you informed. I’m excited about the future for creatives in Houston!

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