I never seems to fail to amaze me how many people are interested in your work if it doesn't cost them anything. A friend recently recounted how he attended lecture and heard a successful photographer describe their business plan. The plan was to never undersell their work. It was a fine and laudable plan. The phone didn't ring for 18 months after that.
A local business recently asked me for rates for stock images. I gave them a quotation of a fair market rate by doing research on other supplier rates for similar uses I had been asked to quote for. The phone did not ring again. Hmmm. This causes me to revisit the rules I hold for working for (or close to) nothing.
- If working for nothing takes paid work away from another photographer - don't do it.
- If the client is making money by using the work, they have to pay for the work.
- If the work is in an area that I am not proficient - consider working at cost and be clear with the client why.
- If I work for free or at cost I retain the rights to the material created - period.
Finally; I will think long and hard about taking on a brief and work for free if it excludes taking a paying job. We have bills to pay after all. However if it is something that I'm really passionate about I'll definitely consider it.
The rules are not unbreakable but I want to have really good reasons, which more than one person will agree with.