Is your business dying from exposure?

Miracle on the Hudson River
Creative Commons License photo credit: laverrue

Today’s guest post comes from Blackstar and addresses something I hear all too often: working for exposure.

In Montana, you can die from exposure in the winter.

It’s not uncommon for someone who typically gets paid professional fees for their work to get asked to donate that work for the great “exposure” that an unpaid gig is going to get them.

Check out http://rising.blackstar.com/a-photo-credit-doesnt-pay-the-rent.html

I’m not talking about letting the local newspaper print a photo you shot at a little league ballgame – especially if you don’t photograph for a living. In the photography biz, the photo credit is tossed around as if it has value. It’s often the only transfer of value that occurs to a photographer.

I’m talking about giving away your primary product/service to another business that will surely profit from it.

If it isn’t your primary way of earning a living, it’s not a big deal. For example, I give photos to the Hungry Horse News and the Flathead Beacon all the time. Yet I don’t give them free programming, marketing or strategic planning help.

Certainly having your name on a published photo is better than not having it, but think about how that works otherwise: What if you were a Microsoft Excel expert and donated your work in exchange for a line at the bottom of the spreadsheet? Think you’d gain anything from that exposure?

Internships

I see nothing wrong with entry-wage internships as a way of getting on-the-job training or offering an opportunity to someone to try out a line of work to see if it’s the thing for them. On the other hand, free internships had better offer amazing experience.

Would you ask someone to take their valuable time to work for you, and expect nothing in return? Probably not. Now think about who would take that opportunity. Someone who had so much to gain from working with you that they would work another job to pay the rent so they could work with you. Someone who is so into what you do and what they want to do that they’d gladly work for nothing.

Yet…internship work is rarely world-class experience. At the very least, it should be real-world work, not busy work so you can say you have an internship program.

Would you work your tail off for free under a highly-recognized world class chef? The return on investment for your time and effort is obvious, especially if you want to be a professional chef. Would you do the same at Burger King?

Exposure has the same possibilities.

If you’re working for exposure, make sure it’s not the kind that kills you.

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