Free Creative Work: Do It Or We Will

Considering the weird and angry comments about our Star Trek post even though the post was very clearly a joke, I almost did not write this. But, oh yeah, who cares?

You will see it all over the internet. You will see it on real news sites, viral sites, Facebook rants, Twitter hashtags, angry memes, and unfortunately you will even hear it right into your own ears: people shouting about how spec work sucks, you shouldn’t do it, and nobody should ask about it.

People refer to it a lot of different ways, but what we’re talking about here is doing (usually) creative work for free. You guys are gonna hate me for this, but here is how I feel about it: I WILL DO CREATIVE WORK FOR FREE AND SO WILL AMANDOLL.

will work 4 attn

Since people get very emotional when they talk about this stuff, because they probably need some valium or more self-respect, I thought I would start out with some ways that you should not talk about free creative work. Here are things that you should not say, all of which I have heard, and why you should not say them:

  • “Never do creative work for free.”
    Do not tell other people what to do.
  • “Never ask someone to do creative work for free.”
    Do not tell other people what to do.
  • “When you do it for free you devalue it for the rest of us.”
    Mind your business.
  • “People will expect it (or already do).”
    Learn to say no politely and effectively like the expert businessperson you are pretending to be.
  • “Don’t you want your friends to be paid? Don’t you want to support your friends?”
    Wait, do you really want all your money to come from the wallets of your dear friends and family? Fuck you.

There are a lot of great reasons to do this stuff for free. People will tell you that these are not good reasons, but they are sometimes, and you need to decide for yourself what is worth your time. Tell those people to worry ‘bout themselves.

i do what i want

Portfolio: So you’re an artist or designer, great! If you already have a portfolio prepared with recent work, then you’re probably set, and I can’t give you a lot of advice about that anyway. If you don’t have one or it isn’t finished, why not do some jobs that will spruce that up? You’ll need that work anyway, so would you rather be stubborn and get zero money and also do nothing, or would you prefer to prove to someone that your work is not just great, but also desirable.

Experience: Let’s face it, we all want to be paid. But do you have the experience to show someone that you are worth paying? For this, sometimes you will need more than just your work or a portfolio. You may need to show a future employer or client that you can collaborate on projects, follow directions and take suggestions, respond well to criticism, and can work under a schedule or deadline. Prove it! It’s not like an unpaid internship AKA slavery would do you much better, and those are unfortunately pretty standard.

Local Business: Sure, your local cafe, florist, burger joint, or community center can probably scrape together some money. And yes, they should have considered marketing in whatever budget they may or may not have. But isn’t it fun to be nice? If you go ahead and do something (anything!) for a local business that you care about, you end up helping them, your neighbors, and your whole community. If this work is the kind of thing you already do, you may want to consider offering some up as a community contribution once in a while.

Payment: Here are some things you can receive rather than cold hard cash, that may be worth it for you or in the long run: Copies of whatever was done with your work. A worthwhile good or service they specialize in aka tradesies. Flattery. Dinner. A feeling of good will. Drugs. Petsitting. Helping you move. Promotion to other groups of people/cultivating a new audience.

Just because: This one is our reason.

If you’re not cool with it, don’t want to do it all the time, or are bad at social skills, you might need some help for when people do ask. A pro tip is not to shout. There is no need to get so worked up over something. Save your energy for eating ice cream and petting cats. Now remember, usually the request you get will be about you doing a single work for someone. Although it may feel to you like it happens all the time, and it may even be infuriating, don’t take it out on that person. They do not know how many times you were asked, they do not know how much it may bother you, and frankly, they may be willing to do the same, assuming it ain’t no thing (and it ain’t). So, do not project the insecurities of the entire art community onto this poor individual who thought it might be a simple question. Here are some responses you may consider using:

  • “Unfortunately, I don’t have time for that project right now but thank you for considering me and good luck!”
  • “I can’t afford to do unpaid work, but I am happy to work with you to see what fits in your budget.”
  • “No.”

Seriously though, email us at to request something for free. We will see if we can fit it into our busy schedules. And now, here is some FREE art by Amandoll that you can do absolutely anything that you want with. On us. Free. Because spite never sleeps.


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