This is something that has been on my mind a lot this year. Especially after applying to hundreds of companies and having a few reply to me, it always boils down to this question: How much will I get paid?
I have been approached by a few companies during my placement year with people saying the following:
“We don’t pay but you can work 3 days a week and have a part time job on the side, that’s what our other interns do.”
“I don’t pay but it will be great for exposure.”
“We’re a small company, we cannot afford to pay.”
Which is ridiculous in this day and age, London is already expensive enough and you expect me to work for free? What if I have to pay rent? What about my travel costs? What about my social life? I have heard stories from many of my friends about working for free in the creative industry (it’s even worse in the fashion industry) and they all say it’s to build experience or training.
It’s a shame and damage to the creative industry because if people agree to work for free then creative companies will continue to exploit them, while people who would want to do the work for a wage will lose that job. I believe it is an old school culture that the older generation of creatives have created and kept, back then if you wanted to get somewhere with little or no training then you would get your foot in the door of the company by working for free but I feel that shouldn’t be the case anymore.
As stated before, London is expensive and for people who just wants to survive in the creative industry, they also have to survive living in London. It isn’t ethical to have creatives to do manual labour without pay, I have a friend who is standing in a gallery all day not getting paid, I also have a fashion friend who styles for free and the list goes on an on.
I think it’s an important issue and the law in the UK is partly to blame. Interns are not subject to national minimum wage and regulations on pay for interns are not well…regulated. Which is why many creative companies get away with hiring people for free or with little pay at all.
I believe, if you cannot afford to pay your interns then don’t offer to hire them. The more that people accept free labour the less good it will do for the future of the creative industry. There’s a belief that “if I work for free, I may get a job at the end of this” whereas the belief should really be “if people value my work and value my craft, they will pay me and hire me”. Perhaps there is a pressure to get a job straight away and get into the industry by any means, but I don’t think it’s right to work for company that will exploit you.
I have rejected all places that wanted me to work for free, if you are a fellow creative please do the same.
Here’s a twitter page dedicated to creatives exposing people who wants them to work for free (which is highly entertaining): https://twitter.com/forexposure_txt