In recent weeks, I’ve been approached about two different projects. One came with a request to work for free. The other came with a shockingly low rate. How low? Let’s just say that the pre-tax amount wouldn’t have been enough to buy dinner for two at Chili’s. Both came as a surprise because I haven’t gotten any of these sorts of offers in quite some time.
Yes, I declined both projects, but it got me thinking about which option is worse. I’ve decided that being asked to work for free is actually less upsetting and less demeaning.
Here’s my logic: When someone wants me to work for free, they go out of their way to explain why the cause is worthy and how the world can be a better place if we pool our strengths towards this common – and did I mention worthy? – goal.
Cheap, however, is a different story. With cheap, the client believes that they are firmly in the right. After all, they did offer to pay you, and you should be grateful that they’re willing to pay you anything at all. In fact, after politely declining the lowball work – a rush job, no less – the gentleman wrote back to berate me about how there are thousands of writers out there that would jump at an opportunity like his, and how I was a fool to reject his opportunity. Thanks, but this fool will take her chances elsewhere.
Which one causes you more stress?