Negotiating

When to say no to free work

“It’s going to give you great visibility! “How many self-employed workers have ever heard this justification when asked for their services without offering remuneration?

Every week, it’s unmissable, the illustrator Sébastien Thibault is offered one or two unpaid collaboration proposals. “Just this week, I was contacted and asked to submit sketches for free! “exclaims the man who counts among others the Timethe New York Times and The news among his clients.

Many graphic designers, freelance journalists and self-employed workers of all kinds are offered a little visibility in exchange for their services. Even bloggers are not spared by this phenomenon,” says Ève Martel, blogger behind the Tellement Swell site and director of content at the Sid Lee agency, in an inflammatory post. “I’m not the only one to receive this type of solicitation,” she notes before recounting anecdotes from other content producers.

Artists, who are protected by the Status of the Artist Act, are no exception either. “It’s very common in the world of variety and chanson, where requests to “come and do two free tunes” at festivals or in music clubs are commonplace,” explains Sophie Prégent, president of the Union des artistes.

In the illustration field, the phenomenon is such that the Association des illustrateurs et illustratrices du Québec has seen fit to specify its position on this subject in its code of ethics. Article 8 states, “An artist should never be asked to work for free by promising remunerative contracts in the future”.

Abusive drifts

While such offers may indeed have their good sides at the beginning of a career, they quickly become abusive as professional experience is gained. “It’s normal to want to build a portfolio, but as soon as you’re able to make a living from it, you should start turning it down,” says Estelle Bachelard, better known as the Bach comic artist.

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Same thing goes for Sébastien Thibault. “When you’re starting out, I’d even say it’s a necessary step,” says Thibault, who has benefited from his first collaborations with magazines such as Urbania to make himself known. “Out of respect for my clients, but also for my colleagues, I almost never do projects of this type any more,” explains the man who puts the figure at “about ten a year, maximum”.

Because, in addition to not paying the rent, this type of collaboration not only hurts the working conditions of an entire community. Accepting this type of proposal is a slippery slope,” says Sophie Prégent. A fee, even a symbolic one, is better than nothing at all. It’s a sign of respect for yourself, but also for your peers. »

In her opinion, the need for a springboard that many artists feel is at the root of the phenomenon. “We’re tackling their Achilles’ heel. They’re being told that without promotion, they’re going to be nothing, and that’s not true. »

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