This post is going to be more about more about exploring a topic as opposed to offering any real insight or solutions. Of course, I’ll try to say something useful here but I’d love you to comment with your thoughts on the matter.
I’m a member of some industry-related Facebook groups for people looking for creative opportunities. You know, people will post jobs, questions, etc. and, if you’re interested, you can comment or send a message. I’m sure there are many other online forums and such that serve the same purpose.
Anyway, I’ve seen all sorts of posts of varying degrees of legitimacy offering varying pay scales, if you catch my drift. When something seems a little off, occasionally people will comment. Like, they’ll say, “Well, you’re clearly getting paid for the job so why can’t you pay your assistant?”, or “Yeah, sure, I can pay my rent with exposure” or they’ll advise readers not to work with the poster or, sometimes, it’s the poster who gets on to vent and warn about a person or company they’ve worked with.
And it got me wondering – when is it, or is it ever, appropriate to call somebody out in a supposedly professional environment like these online forums?
I have seen people respond to these dissenting or cynical comments suggesting they should just not apply for the job if they don’t like the terms – I don’t particularly agree but fair enough, I suppose. When job seekers questioned the terms of a potential opportunity, the poster even commented back accusing they cynics of racism. I thought that was a rather creative interpretation of the situation and I wonder how many people are going to want to work with him after that.
So, when does the voice of reason become the whiner? And when can being outspoken have an effect on your career? Is it worth it?
I’m almost inclined to say it might be.
I mean, I’m all in favour of making sure people get paid unless there’s a really good reason why everyone should be volunteering their services – like it’s for charity. “I feel like making a movie and I have no money so everyone involved should do it for free” is not really a good enough reason in my eyes. And if the vast majority of opportunities you see are volunteer or you know the person posting is making money off of it, you can get frustrated if you’re trying to make a living at your craft. Isn’t it in the industry’s best interest for someone to point these things out? As I’ve said before, getting paid means we can further our skills and become better at what we do, after all, and if people are always willing to do jobs for nothing, then eventually no one will be able make a living. And maybe if more people speak up, someone will get the hint. Just today I saw a posting for an unpaid voice artist to narrate promotional videos for a known creative post-secondary school. And it didn’t look like it was for a class project. I was this close to writing, “Come on. Really?”
And there are situations where safety is a concern. If a potential employer has acted in an abusive manner in the past, shouldn’t those considering their opportunity know about it before they get in too deep? There was a post from someone the other day saying they would discuss payment “in person”. While some commenters were concerned that they would then be roped into doing the job for free, my mind went to kidnapping and being sold into a trafficking situation.
It has happened. A job posting for a make-up artist, for example, will promise a great opportunity with a well-known movie production company, the new hire travels to the city to meet them and they end up at an abandoned building. You can take the story from there. Wouldn’t you want to be warned of a situation like that? Wouldn’t you want to warn someone of a situation like that, even if it made you look like a complainer? I know I would. By the way, just be aware of opportunities that look good to be true. They might very well be.
You see, you can state these things in ways that are less inflammatory than an outright accusation. For example, asking why a project might be volunteer is more a request for clarification than a commentary on the pay scale, wouldn’t you say?
How can these comments affect our professional status? Well, it depends I suppose. I, for one, think it’s hugely important to be courteous, polite and well-spoken in any professional situation, online or offline. I have seen horrendous grammar, spelling and just general tackiness from people even posting job opportunities, seemingly unaware that they too are being judged. So, comments should refrain from profanity or personal attacks and do check your spelling. But, if you do it right, isn’t is possible that you might be closing one door but opening a bunch of others? I mean, people could witness your passion, eloquence and all round awesomeness and be dying to work with you! Right? I don’t really know but I suppose anything can happen.
All that being considered, remember that potentially thousands of people will be exposed to your comments so:
1) You need to walk the walk and stand by what you say. People will find out if you’re being hypocritical, like if you rant about an employer treating you badly and then stories come out about how you’ve been nasty and difficult to work with. That’ll come back to bite ya in the tukus!
2) Keep it to the subject at hand and don’t go on and on about every time an employer has done you wrong or whatever. Nobody cares and that’s the straight up definition of a whiner.
2) Realize that certain ideas expressed may limit some opportunities for you and you need to be okay with that. I applaud those who comment that artists should be getting paid for their services. I do. And when a really cool job comes up that you would do for nothing (good thing because that’s what they’re offering) don’t be surprised if the poster responds. “Saw your other posts and you don’t like doing things for free so no.” That’s what comes with taking a stand so you have to be ready for it.
So, what do you think? Is expressing your opinions on professional online forums a worthwhile thing to do – if you do it tactfully, of course? Or should you keep your comments to yourself and let everyone else deal with their own stuff? Let your voice be heard!