As a creator, how do you handle the free work requests? Read further to see all the traps you need to avoid.
If you are an Instagram influencer, content creator, or blogger, you’ve likely encountered situations where brands offer products in exchange for posts or content creation.
The debate over whether accepting these kinds of free work opportunities is okay is fierce. And I’ll leave the final judgment to you. Nevertheless, I want to share my thoughts on what situations is accepting ‘free work’ worth it and how to handle these non-paid opportunities so you can protect your work and keep it professional.
When is working in exchange for products okay?
As I said, it’s up to you to decide if merely having the product is worth it. But in my humble opinion, there are a few situations where unpaid work is acceptable:
- When the work you do fits your brand
- When the collaboration will be beneficial for your social media audience, blog readers, and so on
- When having images with the product will help your portfolio become better and will attract more clients in the future.
- When having this product or connection with the brand will help your career in a big way (and only a big way counts).
- When the product you get is of a very high value, and you would purchase this or a similar product anyway. (In my experience, this is rarely the case!)
I can’t stress this enough, but even if you work in exchange for products, you still have to put effort, time, money, and creativity into your projects, so make sure that whatever deal you make, you gain something from that!
Setting the Stage for a Successful Collaboration
It has happened to all of us – a collaboration that left one or both sides of the party unsatisfied. I like to include some strategies:
- Clear communication: Be sure to communicate in the greatest detail possible about how this will work. Don’t forget to talk about how many images/videos/reels/blog posts… You will produce, how you’ll include that product, and when exactly they are going out.
- Product integration: Clarify how the product will be integrated into your content, whether they will be mentioned or tagged, where, or even IF they can use the content you produced, and every little detail.
- Usage Rights: From the beginning, you need to let the brand know how the content you create can be used. Will you be the one sharing it? Can they share or repost it? Where can they use it, for how long, and whether they should credit you?
- Logistics: Who will take care of shipping and import taxes or any other expenses that might arise?
To ensure the communication is clear and easy from the beginning, I created a pdf with clearly written how I work, what kinds of content I can produce in exchange for products, and how long after receiving the product I can post the content. Will you mention or tag them in the post and other vital information? So they see that I’m serious and my work provides value! I have this PDF ready online and send a link to everyone who contacts me, so I don’t need to explain all these things repeatedly.
Remember that even if you are in a situation where a brand asks you to work for a product, you have the chance to pitch paid work.
- Say no to unpaid work and introduce your paid packages from the get-go.
- Provide a part of the job for free and charge a fee for the rest. Let them know what you can do for free or how they can use the photos for free, and share your rates if they want extra work or an extra usage license from you.
Protect Your Free Work
We already talked that you should discuss the usage and every other important detail about the collaboration, but you should also write it.
A contract is necessary for every work you do, no matter if it is paid or not. You want to protect your work from being used in ways you do not agree with and get fair compensation for different uses.
Free work conclusions
Collaborating for products is work like any other, so you should treat it as such. It is essential to approach any work with professionalism and a business-oriented mind.
Clear communication, brand values, and guidelines are the foundation of navigating any business successfully.
To make sure these product exchange collaborations run smoothly, I advise you to let the brand know how you work and that you are obligated to protect your work while making sure both parties will be better off.