Why I say no to "Exposure" as a form of payment

Here's a fun topic for the day:

Exposure as a form of payment..... 

This is a tricky subject but I think it's worth discussing. I often get approached for different collaboration opportunities that involve trading for my time, talent, and creative images and I must respectfully decline. They typically are from very sweet people with good intentions and the requests often look like this: 

"Hey Tara, 

"Would you be interested in partnering with my company. We are in need of professional photos for our office staff as well as some upcoming events. We are looking for someone to come in and take the photos for FREE and in return, we will promote your business to our clients via our newsletter, social media and signage at our events." 

~Jane Doe 
Director of marketing
BIG Huge Company

There are several reasons why I typically say no to non-paying photo gigs:

1. I have 3 kids. -

Sure, I can find child care and I love doing fun photoshoots but let's be honest I am in business to make money. I have 3 kids, who eat and grow constantly and my income helps support and provide for my family. Working for exposure doesn't put shoes on my kid's feet or fill my pantry. Yes, I love what I do but that does not mean I should do it for free for other people. Time away working is time taken away from my family. My family is the reason I got into this business and they come first always. I value my time with my kids because I know their childhood is fleeting. When it comes to my kids, I don't want to miss a thing which is why I also love working with families because I know how quickly time goes raising kiddos. 

2. no guarantees for return on investment-

You might have thousands of clients or followers but that doesn't mean any of them will do business with me. I appreciate referrals, I really, really do but I know that quality referrals come from people who know, like, and trust me. I work very hard to build relationships with my clients so that they keep coming back and they tell their friends. This works incredibly well for my business and I am as busy as I need to be.  I'm not interested in working for free so that I get tagged in social media posts with the hopes that one or two people might book with me when they see a post. My clients already gladly do this and they pay me.... and I freaking love them so much!!!

3. I already have an established portfolio-

I have been in business for over 10 years and at this point, I don't need to build my portfolio anymore. My portfolio is of real, paying clients. If I choose to collaborate on a project or styled shoot- where I trade my time and images, it will be for something that I feel called to creatively. I am all about collaborations if there are clear expectations, creative vision, mutual benefits, and at the same time in line with my personal and professional values.

4. I'm not a starving Artist (or photographer)

Don't get me wrong, I love getting new clients and I appreciate any business that comes my way. After over a decade of building my business, I can comfortably say no to non-paying gigs because I'm super busy. I'm busy networking, shooting, running my business, and hanging out raising my family. I value my time and my clients do too.  There is no refund on time and I am choosing to use the time I have carefully.

If you are a photographer or creative and you trade your time, talent, and products to promote your business or trade for exposure, that's totally your choice and I respect. Maybe it's working for you. I totally did it in the early years of my business and sometimes it worked out really great and lead to amazing partnerships. 

Over the years, I have discovered my version of success looks different than others and how I spend my time is a huge part of how I define success. I am choosing to only invest my time in activities and work that are in line with my personal and professional goals and values. Faith, family, fun then- finances. I'm ok saying no to opportunities that may lead to something big if it means I get to spend more time doing what I love, with the people I love and clients who value my services. 

If you are a business owner, I encourage you to set some boundaries for your business too. 

1.  What must you say No to in order to say Yes to the activities/work/people you love?

2.  What projects, organizations or causes are you willing to "volunteer" your time for?

3.  How will you respond next time you are asked to give your work away for free? Write out a script. 

Here are a few scripts you can use:

"Thank you so much for reaching out. I really appreciate your interest in my company. At this time, I must respectfully decline your offer. If you would like me to put together a quote for your projects please reply with more details."

"Thank you so much for reaching out. I really appreciate your interest in my company. I have a very full schedule right now and I cannot commit to volunteering anymore of my time to unpaid work. Please keep me in mind if you are looking to hire a photographer for any upcoming projects."

Thanks for reading! I hope you have an awesome!! 

~Tara Thackeray

Tara Thackeray Photography
Vancouver WA Photographer


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