Jena Ball in Lifestyle, Communications and journalism, beBee in English Founder • The Not Perfect Hat Club Sep 19, 2016 · 1 min read · 2.2K

I'm a Professional. I Get Paid for My Time.

I'm a Professional. I Get Paid for My Time.

This spot on video by Zulu Alpha Kilo is making the rounds on social media. It is hilarious, mostly because it is so true, thus proving that we laugh hardest at what hurts us most.

The video addresses the issue of "on spec" work, which most creative types have been asked to do by people and companies that can well afford to pay. The most egregious and high profile of these offenders is probably The Huffington Post, but there are many many more. Some of the lines I love the most from the video:

"Here is my Request for Proposal (RFP). You give me designs on spec, then we'll see if I like the finished product, and maybe I'll pay for the build."

"You guys could make me a spec breakfast, and if I enjoy it, I'll make you guys my ROR - restaurant of record."

"So I'm going to teach you how to do stuff, then you own my intellectual property?"

If all this sounds patently absurd and laughable, know that this is what most creatives face on a daily basis. I have lost track of the number of "Work for Hire" and "On Spec" contracts I've been ask to sign. The assumption is that my would be employers are doing me a favor. They seem to believe they deserve to have all rights to my work - work by the way that is the result of 30+ years of experience, research and a contact list that took me decades to build. They believe this because they can, because this has become standard operating procedure in publishing. And, with the advent of internet publishing, it has only gotten worse.

I think the video does a brilliant job of making the case for doing away with on spec work, but let me add one more thing. Creativity is probably the most precious ability human beings possess. If we fail to reward it, or worse yet tell those who have committed themselves to exploring and expressing their creativity that they don't deserve to be paid until they have auditioned, or be grateful for the chance to work for free, then we are doing the entire human race a HUGE disservice.

No new discovery. breakthrough idea or revolutionary solution has ever come from creative people being afraid to take risks, not making enough to meet their basic needs, or thinking inside the box. As a species, we need our storytellers - writers, poets, artists, singers, actors, dancers, etc. - to help us make sense of our world and find solutions to the many and pressing challenges we face.

I think Ursula K. LeGuin said it best in her 2014 National Book Award speech, "I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality."

P.S. Many thanks to @FlavioRodrigueaVieria for the video and thought provoking post.

To learn more about me and my creative work, visit:

Jena Ball Sep 22, 2016 · #20

#19 Yay! A fellow traveler :-) I have noticed that as I get older I know what my work is worth and am proud of it.

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Richard Buse Sep 22, 2016 · #19

Thanks for sharing this @Jena Ball. We need to respect ourselves and our abilities. I've been at this for about 30 years as well and while there are things that stink about getting older, I've noticed that I am getting more and more comfortable with quickly dismissing anyone who wants "on spec" work, free work for exposure, or massive amounts of work for little pay.

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Robert Cormack Sep 22, 2016 · #18

I left the advertising game of "on spec" to write books (on spec). No difference, really. Most publishers today require writers to do their own editing, their own promotion, their own book design, their own back cover copy and their own giveaways. Here's where it gets really interesting. Publishers (some, anyway) charge writers for returned books. If your book has international distribution, that adds up to a lot, especially since it's nearly impossible promoting books internationally except on international social media. Meanwhile, the social media giants (we all know who they are) make sure, if we can't afford to advertise, that our posts are seen by LESS than one percent of their audience reach. Imagine if all the writers on all the sites, all the copywriters, all the journalists and all the content writers decided to stop writing FOR JUST ONE WEEK!!! We'd be left with restaurant photos, funny dog clips and political nonsense.

Renée Cormier Sep 22, 2016 · #17

I got really sick of people inviting me to meetings and then trying to get free work out if me. I decided to get the Square which is a free device you plug into your phone that let's you accept credit card payments on the spot for a low rate. Now if I find myself in a conversation that seems to be geared around getting a lot of free information from me, I can stop the conversation and charge a consulting fee which I can then back out of a retainer if they sign within a month.

Brian McKenzie Sep 20, 2016 · #16

I paint in 7.62 mm, nobody gives a shiate that I wrote a folder full of poems over 30 years. I get paid when people kill each other, en mass. It is the only skill people call me for...and for those of you paying attention ~ I am about to make a fat wad money check and issue a few 'I Told You So' t-shirts.

Kevin Pashuk Sep 20, 2016 · #15

Thanks Jena. Ah, the life of a creative person, including inventors, writers, musicians, and artists. It's too bad we can't pay the bills with 'exposure', because there seems to be a lot of that to go around. Thankfully I am in a career where I can express myself creatively, and have several creative outlets on the side, which have generated a whole lot of exposure, but I probably couldn't do a Starbucks run on the actual money I've made.

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Irene Hackett Sep 20, 2016 · #14

I really love your spunk @Jena Ball! It is disturbing how 'progress' seems to devalue the 'human' qualities that truly add beauty and depth and wholeness to our experience n this fleeting life! I stand with you - human creativity should never become irrelevant or devalued.

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Jena Ball Sep 20, 2016 · #13

#9 Yep me too :-)

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