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Calling all freelance content providers (musicians, writers, actors, photographers, designers etc):

Join me in WITHDRAWING UNPAID LABOUR from the creative and media industries.

The exploitation of freelance content providers has gone on too long, and we are all responsible for letting it happen.

Please do not:

• Write, act, photograph or design for free

• Provide images, music or performances for free

• Do radio or television interviews for free

If a company or corporation asks you to provide your time and skills for nothing, TURN IT DOWN. You have nothing to lose by saying NO.

If you have any concern at all for your economic future as a content provider – and for the future of subsequent generations of such providers – please don’t ignore this issue.

PASS THE WORD ON to any content providers you know (and join the new Facebook group Stop Working For Free…)


Further thoughts for those with a slightly longer attention span…


• If you allow yourself to be seduced by the myth that your unpaid labour will “look good on your c.v.” (or equivalent blah), please try to see that you jeopardise not only the welfare of your replaceable elders but your OWN long-term economic future.

• You set up a paradigm whereby you in turn become replaceable. The rolling exploitation of unpaid workers and perpetual interns is based on a false notion of deferred reward.

• If we do not start demanding recompense, ultimately humans will have no value. As Jaron Lanier states in his essential new book WHO OWNS THE FUTURE?, “Capitalism only works if there are enough successful people to be the customers.”

• How is it that our online habits have huge big-data value to tax-avoidant entities like Google, Facebook and Amazon yet NO VALUE WHATSOEVER when we request payment for our contributions to the networked information economy?

• We must return to the core humanist principle of valuing not just institutions and material things but actual living humans.

• If the present economic paradigm prevails, it will vindicate Margaret Thatcher’s contention that there is no such thing as society. Wouldn’t it be nice to prove her wrong?


• If you are making money from the labour of others, then you should share that wealth with them.

• If you knowingly exploit somebody while telling yourself, “Why would I pay someone if s/he’s willing to work for nothing?”, how do you sleep at night?

• If you habitually hire interns, at what point does their work experience end? At what point does somebody actually become WORTH PAYING?

• The culture of internship and work experience sustains class inequality, because only privileged kids can work for free. Only THEY receive the economic subsidy the government withholds from those born poor and with little hope of educational betterment.

• This is not only a moral but a MARKET imperative. In the long term markets will collapse if there aren’t enough people sharing in the wealth.




  1. Mike says:


    I read this with several nods of agreement and the constant nagging guilt of self-recognition. You’re talking about me. I supply to magazines and websites without payment. I have written, and continue to write for several, on both sides of the Atlantic. I do this in the hope that one day soon I’ll be able to charge for it.

    I know that this is self-defeating. I recognise that every article I give away devalues my work, in pecuniary terms at least.

    But what else can I do?

    My writing, I have been informed with reasonable reliability, is good. I research my articles diligently and meet every single deadline assiduously. I have a constant stream of (unpaid) work to do. My work is online and available around the world. If somebody wishes to read it I need only send them a link. Can I prove my capabilities as a writer? Yes I can.

    And yet, every paying outlet that I have approached has ignored me.

    Do you think they’d start paying me any more attention if my publication count was zero? That if I nobly withheld my unpaid labour, commissioning editors up and down the land would take that as the signal to finally start coughing up?

    Does a band on the pay-to-play circuit get offered a gig at Wembley just because they’ve told some miserly landlord to shove it?

    I’m not looking for Wembley. Not yet. But to find any paid work I need to prove that I’m worth it. How am I supposed to prove my chops as a writer without being published at all?

    As I said, I agree with your words. I admire their logic. But they’re very easy for a man with his own Wikipedia page to write. This anonymous toiler would need some assurances that his work would be missed if he withdrew it. I have none.

    Every unpaid writer, or artist, or photographer or whatever could down tools at once but there’d be another phalanx of wannabes to step in. Those of us at the start of our (purported) careers lack the leverage to make demands.

    I applaud the sentiment, I really do, but another approach is required.

    Thanks for reading.

    PS. If you do know of any editors with still-functioning chequebooks, send them my way.

  2. Tom says:

    Barney, isn’t it interesting that “don’t do it for free” is always an issue if it affects yourself, but it is NOT when you are the demanding side? A lot of musicians cry out loud in this area, while at the very same time they do everything to get the services they need for free or at a price point nobody can live with. So while they are demanding to be paid for every bit they do, they know damn well how to pressure others by citing cheaper or free offers. As a musician and an IT guy, I have insight in various areas and you would not believe how many designers, musicians etc. don’t care about these “rules” (they want applied for their work) when it comes to what others do. Software is either copied or they use “free” alternatives, they demand countless hours of consultancy for then buying the exact configuration etc. at the cheapest online. But beware, once you try to argue with them, they either get mad or they come up with the “I am so poor” stories. That said, the creatives have all forgotten that in the IT industry we have these issues since ages. The first notebooks sold at a price and with a margin that just one single sale could get you over the month. Today, you earn a few dollars per computer and must sell tons, just to be in the same range. And all this, with customers constantly moaning about you being too expensive and you need to do this and that in addition form them to even consider your offers. The result? Countless smaller companies being closed down during the past years Did the creatives care? No, they want cheaper PCs, cheaper instuments, cheaper software,
    I would perfectly agree with your sentiments if all the people would finally understand that nobody can work for free. But it will never work if the “not for free” term only applies to a certain gilde or turn into disrespect for the work of others.

  3. beth says:

    I’m afraid I’m just like Tom. I’m not starting out as a teenager, but as someone going it alone after 40 years of employment.
    I allow other websites to republish my blog because i hope that that will lead to more traffic to my site.
    one has promised to pay ‘when we get a freelance budget’ and i believe he would like to, but know that day will never dawn. it so happens that a friend was editor of that publication 30 years ago and it has always been a one-man-and-his-dog operation.
    BUT…the site is well read and my stuff gets picked up and quoted by other sites, which refer directly back to me. half of this week’s traffic has come via that source.
    i am hoping against hope that eventually my profile will be raised sufficiently so that i am invited to write for others, speak at conferences, colleges etc, for which i hope to be paid.
    it’s an investment in the future – and also good practice in getting into the habit of writing.
    but yes, yes, yes, of course i wish someone would pay me.
    good luck with your campaign

  4. Larry Jaffee says:

    Last week I was interviewing a lawyer to handle my rapidly aging parents’ application to get “Medicaid” status (rather than Medicare, an arcane policy that makes me jealous of the UK’s National Health) would allow their savings dwindle if one needed long-time medical care. After more than an hour of explaining the process, the attorney finally explained his retainer fee was US $9,500 and it could exceed that if additional services were required, it occurred to me that his profession did not allow any kind of de-valuing of their services, unlike we creative types.

  5. says:

    Hey Barney. I freaked out when I heard my US office at Dramatico was “hiring” free interns. I stopped them doing it immediately. I never have work experience people, I always pay everyone as well as I can – it’s insulting and disrespectful not to. Forgive preposition there at end of last sentence, don’t know what I was thinking of. Our daughter, Hayley, is in Manhatten and has been interning for free and they are shameless about it. She’s stopped now, – but is playing BASS for free with an indie band! She’s afraid to ask for her expenses even! Nobody has bothered to say whetherperhaps the other band members all have day jobs (she can’t have one on her one year post grad visa) – it’s just the elephant in the room. Unspoken. I completely agree with your logic. If you don’t value yourself you also devalue the poor bastard who will happily replace you for free if you dare to ask for payment. And as you say, you might be learning but you are taking up a job that a more experienced or clever and deserving person might more fairly be doing. Very good thoughts (yours). MB

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