Hey, Will You Fix My Plumbing For Free?

One question:  Do you do your job for free? 

By job, I mean: 

job1 

jäb/ 

noun 

1. 

a paid position of regular employment. 

"jobs are created in the private sector, not in Washington" 

synonyms:occupation, profession, trade, position, career, work, line of work, livelihood, post, situation, appointment, métier, craft; More 

2. 

a task or piece of work, especially one that is paid. 

"she wants to be left alone to get on with the job" 

synonyms:task, piece of work, assignment, project; More 

That's taken from the dictionary, by the way.  Notice some key words - "livelihood," "paid," "career." 

Before I continue with this post, please know that there are certain exceptions to what I am about to write.  Charity work is one thing.  I've done some charity work, and it's a fulfilling and wonderful experience that I think everyone should try at least once in their lives.  I actually love it and wish I could afford to do more of it.  A major KEY point to charity work, however, is that it is done entirely by choice and for a specific reason and cause.  You also can't make a living off of solely doing charity work.  It's all a balancing act. 

Experience - Some people do work for experience at first.  Much like a video game, you slowly but surely gather experience and gradually level up.  Up to a point, this is understandable, but there comes a time where an individual knows their worth and talents, and should refuse to take a step backward in any way when a person who does not recognize the individual's value attempts to sell them short.  If you don't acknowledge your own worth and accept a step backward, you have to take another two steps forward to get back to where you initially were.  This is kind of like the evolution of a Pokemon.  Think about it. 

With that out of the way, here it comes... 

Do you ask your plumber to fix your pipes for "experience"? 

Do you ask your secretary, boss, or co-worker to do their job for free? 

Do you ask the person who picks up your trash or cleans septic tanks or someone who runs or works in any kind of business...to do what they do for a livelihood (there's that word again) for free? 

If you said "Yes" to any of these, then please go reread the definition of "Job" and also, please send me an email and explain your schema to me so I can more-than-likely roll my eyes and not respond.  JessicaMeuse@yahoo.com 

Stop asking creative people to do what they do for a living for free.  It's our job.  This is how we put food in the fridge and survive.  And it's really freaking hard to do what we love because people keep asking us to do stuff for free all the time.  >_< 

Up to a certain point, exposure and experience is needed.  I have played innumerable free shows, and they were 3-4 hours long and included me lugging around a heavy PA system and setting up/tearing down all by myself.  Plus, driving to the venue - which sometimes was 5+ hours away.  That's wear and tear on a vehicle.  Depreciating value that someone like me isn't able to make up for because I had ZERO money.  I had a 2013 Chevy Cruze with nearly 100,000 miles on it.  Not joking.  Thankfully, I was able to maintain my car well, and it was in good running condition and retained a lot of its value because I was able to take care of it.  Before I got to the level I'm on now with my music, I wasn't able to do that.  I was driving around in my mom's truck, a total gas-guzzler, and SHE helped maintain it because I couldn't afford anything.  Not even to feed myself.  I was just a broke college kid who wanted to sing and play my guitar for the rest of my life. 

First of all, here's my job.  I don't "just sing."  Wouldn't that be nice?  Now, that WOULD be an easy job compared to what I have done and do now, but it's still a job nonetheless.  Think about the time it takes to practice and rehearse.  Plus the time to learn guitar.  Plus time practicing and memorizing not only my own new songs, but older songs and cover songs, spanning over all different genres so I have a massive pool of tunes to pick from for at least a two hour set (and if the set is less - if you know me - you know I always have back up songs lined up).  Think about the time and work it takes for public relations, promoting events, MAKING events, booking the events, maintaining social media, interacting with fans, scheduling, scheduling phone calls and taking those phone calls, organizing travel - flights, hotels, rental cars and/or private cars.  I have to do these things on good days and bad days.  Time and work don't discriminate.  Think about the investment for an artist who works their ass off to maintain and build upon current music industry friendships/relationships, PLUS taking the time to support other artists and be present and active at other networking events (like NAMM).  I have to take the time to be everywhere at once, and there's not nearly enough time in the day (that's why I'm always sleepy and my blood is 95% coffee). 

Also, keep in mind that I have what I call a "jobby job" right now, which is what a lot of people would refer to as a "real job." 

Another perspective... 

I have a friend who is a hugely, ridiculously, disgustingly talented graphic designer and artist.  Many of you know precisely who I'm referring to right now, and you're right.  She's my best friend.  You know why?  Because...remember that blog I posted about "surrounding yourself with successful people" and "you are your friends"?  She's the epitome of what a hard-working, ass-kicking, golden-hearted human being is.  She's insanely good at what she does, and she is my personal cheerleader, vice versa.  Her art actually freaks me out because it's so good, and I have watched her evolve over the couple of years I've known her, and it legit SCARES me how much she is growing in her creativity when I thought she couldn't get any better. 

Somebody asked my friend to PAY THEM to use her work.  She actually screenshotted the message and sent it to me.  A chick over in Europe had created a super generic, copy & paste message littered with typos and informal language.  And she actually had the audacity to say "For a small fee of blah blah your name will be credited to my 10,000 followers on blah blah blah bullcrap blah."  It was especially funny, because she didn't even have 10k followers, and no one knew who she was.  It was obviously a mass email trying to get whatever amount of money for free work.  It's safe to say my friend didn't even respond, but it's frustrating as hell - especially because of the frequency - when people ask you to provide a service - WORK - for free, and even more ridiculous when someone tries to get you to pay them to provide your service... 

People gotta eat!  People gotta pay rent!  I got bills to pay!  If you expect someone to provide their craft for free, expect to do the same.  Do not take creative people's jobs any less seriously than any "real job," because our jobs are that much harder because of people who don't see them as "real jobs."  We get punished in more ways than one for being creative, different, a little spacey at times.  If creatives want to offer up their services, that's one thing.  I love working with the Humane Society of Elmore County back home in Alabama.  I do my best to help them out, even if it's just by being present, at events.  Also, I just love the people.  I love being involved in the cause, and many of my furry family members are from that shelter.  I've fed homeless on Christmas, BECAUSE I WANTED TO on my own free time.  I needed to do it.  They didn't ask me to, but rather I sought them out and made the necessary arrangements. 

Don't tell me you're not going to pay me because the gig is for "experience" or "exposure" UNLESS it really is.  I mean, if Bonnaroo asked me to perform for free for exposure, I'd go.  Or Coachella, Stagecoach...that's a different story, because that's next level for me.  Other than that, please understand that I get at least 200 requests a year to play for free.  If I took every free show, I'd be super skinny and hungry 24/7 and unable to live in my apartment.  Please understand that there's a balance at work, and a creative saying "No" doesn't mean we hate your cause or never ever want to work with you.  Give us some gas money and maybe comp our meal if you're gonna have us do something for free.  Maintain and nurture that relationship, if it's a collaboration, but PLEASE don't ask us to take a step backward if it's only going to hurt us. 

Also, if you're in any artistic field, whether it's drawing, painting, graphics, studio production, writing, singing, etc., weigh the pros and cons of whatever gig is asking you to perform for free.  Some are really great - like Toys For Tots around Christmastime and similar happenings.  Perhaps its an unpaid internship.   Think about your expenses and where your current finances stand.  It doesn't hurt to look ahead and start thinking about tax season, either.  Look at your ultimate goal as well as the smaller goals you have set for yourself to get there.  Write them down!  Writing things down is CRITICAL.  Be real with yourself, and if you can't do it or it's going to pull you backwards, don't do it.  It's okay.  Onward and upward!

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