Getting Paid in Exposure is Okay – Being Manipulated is Not

There are seasons in my life where it feels like everyone is asking me “Are you going to keep renting? Have you thought about buying a house? Why would you just throw money away renting when you could throw it away on home repairs and HOA fees?”

After the bombardment of questioning has settled, I go down a rabbit whole for two weeks or so trying to weigh out all the different pros and cons, wonder if my landlord is actually evil incarnate or not, and add another string on my conspiracy board that connects how houses were invented by banks as an excuse to lend you money.

All of this boils down to the simple fact that the best time to buy a house is when it feels right. Do it when you’re ready. Buying vs Renting? It’s personal preference.

The same goes for situations where you will be getting paid in exposure. It’s personal preference.

Should you turn down every opportunity that comes along that isn’t a paid gig? When people present this option to you are you going to bark at them with a list of your rates and costs? Are the people presenting this ‘paid-in-exposure’ model friends with my landlord who may or may not be evil incarnate? Give me a moment, I found another connection thread I need to add to my conspiracy board.

Go For It
I think people who don’t know a lot about the creative service world will present the whole ‘But you’ll get paid in exposure’ idea. They know they would like you to be a part of it and they honestly may not have the budget to pay you anything. If you aren’t slammed with other creative opportunities and it works for your schedule, I’d say go for it. The worst that’s going to happen is you get no exposure and you get more hours focused on developing your craft. You might think you know it all, but you’re always a few hours away from discovering something new about your craft. If you aren’t discovering something new about your craft, then congratulations, you just found your next assignment.

Filter Out Manipulators
Whenever these ‘getting-paid-for-exposure’ opportunities arise (and trust me they never really go away) it’s a great time to work on your discernment skills. I imagine my sight becoming like the weird alien-vision in Predator, except it doesn’t seek out Arnold Schwarzenegger and company, it alerts me to manipulators. These are the opposite of the naive, no budget, craft lovers I mentioned earlier.

Manipulators can take photos and achieve the most basic of photo editing for free, but they don’t want to. They don’t care about your craft or the art you’ve produced, they know you have a pure love of the craft and want you to do all the work instead so they don’t have to.

Manipulators don’t put in the work to promote that upcoming live show. Since they are manipulators nobody wants to come out and support their band to play anyway – they’re jerks. They want your band to play for free, do all the work it takes to promote (because they aren’t), they’ll make you play dead last at the end of the night, because they want your friends and fans to sit through their set while they wait for the real set they came for.

Manipulators don’t want to do the work, they don’t love the craft (they love their ego), and they know someone else is always looking to develop their own skills. I know we should all grab our pitchforks and torches, but the best thing to do is to decline their offers and hope they come around. Like Snickers, they aren’t them when they are hungry. If they continue with this type of behavior it will catch up to them eventually in some way.

In the meantime, let’s keep getting paid in exposure and be on the lookout for manipulators.

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