Knowing Your Value
A case study of sorts: Recently I was contacted for a "volunteer opportunity". Now, let me start by saying I love helping out charities and good causes. Recently I donated a ton of time to help a local animal shelter with it's fundraising gala by editing a video to be played during the event. I have given my time for food drives. Spent money on baskets for Christmas and hand delivered them to families in need. I think it's good to spread these type vibes into the universe. HOWEVER This company, (which will remain nameless to protect me from any legal recourse) has been recruiting "volunteers" to help them put on an event promoting Women's Empowerment. This event is 100% FOR PROFIT (meaning, the event organizers are making mucho-moolah) and only optional, additional donations on top of the ticket price is being donated to the charitable organization. I was asked by it's organizer to help with the website and the SEO for google, but it wasn't for the event - no, I was asked to help with her own personal marketing firm's website. Another "volunteer" is in the process of designing the logo for the marketing firm, not the event. This person who claimed to have a legitimate business was outsourcing her needs to people who deserve to be paid. This person, was throwing an event and getting young, hopeful, creative and passionate people to donate their time and skills for free instead of paying professionals for what they are worth. It only took a simple google search to see that, on her website the images were not owned or even purchased from a stock-photo website. The charity she claimed was benefiting from the event did not know who she was, nor had they heard of the event or had it listed on their own website on their events page. Red flags GALORE. But, what about my portfolio? Here is the difference: If you are knowingly donating your time to any company or cause in exchange for credit, experience or portfolio assets that is absolutely a valid thing to do in this industry. A graphic designer needs a portfolio. Marketers need these things. Artists need these things. Photographers need these things - however there is a level of transparency and some sort of agreement needed before you engage. Be sure you know what you are getting into. Will they be profiting off of your work and are you aware of this in advance? Will your work be used online, in print, on a website? Most importantly, will you be given proper credit for your work? For example, you spend a few hours of time (backed by your education, experience and practice) designing a logo. This logo gets splashed across the web, social media and print materials - AWESOME THIS IS YOUR WORK BEING DISPLAYED! So what now? If there are no links to your own websites or socials, no contact information in case someone wants to hire you themselves or not even a mention of your name THAT IS NOT CREDIT. Sure, you could plop this logo into your portfolio folder and show it to potential clients, but that directly involves you seeking opportunities and getting far enough to be able to display said work. With that mind-set, you can create mock-up logos for ANY company as a demonstration of your skills. You can re-vamp McDonalds or Microsoft or make up a fake company just to design some pretty shiny things. The whole point of being credited for free work is the possibility of being discovered by the people who view it. It would look great on a resume! Yes, sure. Being able to say "Designed the logo for so-and so company" on your resume or "donated my time helping out so and so event" looks fantastic and adds real life experience to any resume. Maybe they are even willing to write you a letter of reference which would be great padding as well. That being said, if this company is basically invisible, or a startup it won't hold much weight. Think about it: its 2019 - How many times in your life have you (or someone you know) done any of the following: - Wrote a fake sick letter to get you out of an activity, school or work
- Had a friend or relative act as a reference for you on a resume or rental application
- Created a fake social media profile to creep on someone - Given out a fake name or phone number to someone at a bar or event
- Made up job experience on a resume to look like a more attractive candidate
- Lied to your boss, friends, family, school or anyone else about being "at an appointment"
I for one, will admit that I have at one point or another done every single one and I like to think of myself as a good person with integrity. What's my point? Well, it's simple. A resume bullet point or a letter of reference from a person or company that doesn't have a presence online or is a known entity in the community doesn't have much weight. Moral of the story: Be sure you are donating your time to someone or something that actually benefits you in the end. It's for a good cause! Is it really though? In this particular case (not all cases of course) the organizer was throwing an event under the guise of Women's Empowerment, which was for-profit, and only donating optional additional money to any good cause. The time and skills she was outsourcing were to professionals for professional services such as logo design, web design, content creation, SEO among i'm sure other things. Things that, would be a great way to spend your time if it was actually in fact, benefiting an organization. However, this particular event was in fact, not. Throwing around words like "empowering women" and "uplifting" are great ways to tug at the heartstrings of other humans to get them on board but the soft and fuzzy feelings stop when you learn that your hard work is lining the pockets of the people pretending to care about your well being. The only people in this case, who are being uplifted are the organizer and likely the keynote speaker. The vendors are paying for their spots. The attendees are paying for entry. They are making money hand-over fist if this event is successful and then there's you. The hard working eager marketing professional who spent time and creative energy bringing this to life. The one spending time setting up, working the door, taking tickets and helping facilitate the whole thing. Were the caterers paid? Yes. Was the venue paid? Yes. Was the person speaking paid? Hell yes. I'm sure the will indeed thank you greatly while they are on their next Instagram worthy trip to Greece courtesy of your free hard work. Make sure you are lending your time to something that is truly for a good cause, or at least, is up front about this to you. So what's the point? Here is the point. KNOW YOUR WORTH. RESPECT YOURSELF. PROTECT YOURSELF. (Don't wreck yo-self!) I obviously, declined the offer to be involved. I also, in great detail outlined why I declined in a numbered point form in my email. I also suggested strongly that the organizer increase their transparency and be up front to their volunteers about their motivations and financial gain. How does this tie into being blog worthy? Well, aside from being red-hot angry about all that I discovered in the past hour I think it's important for everyone from industry professional to newbie to know their worth. If someone is looking for you to perform a task or service for them, it's because they likely cannot do it themselves. They do not have the skills, education or experience that you have or they do not have the time. This is why you exist. It's why we all exist in this industry and in order to succeed and do yourself justice you have to remember that. *Mic Drop*