Even though it has only been a week since the formal launch of my company, 0001D LLC, I have received a few messages from people willing to work for free for me. I want to express my utmost gratitude to these people. Anyone who has the selflessness and means to devote their free time to our fledgling organization should be commended.
However, I must decline.
For too long, employers have taken advantage of free labor in the creative industry. Even if workers are volunteering their time out of their own volition, they are contributing to a crisis in the creative community. I will be maintaining a practice of always paying my employees and not using free internships.
Please do not misinterpret my words as an attack against workers; plenty of societal pressures lead up to the exploitation of one’s talent, time, and resources. The work-for-exposure and work-for-free crises has surpassed even my cynical expectations. Business-people masquerading as professors exploit the “impostor syndrome” in their students, driving them to volunteer their youth. Students buy into a myth that free internships are the essential gateway to full-time employment and greater compensation. The accelerating arms race of Technology, Entertainment, and Design creates a bandwagon fiction of overly-optimistic academic/industrial pioneers (or charlatans) in conflict to the rest of us “standing still” in the murk of real life. This perpetual motion machine of fantasy design firms and creative companies is secretly run by the power of free internships.
Just to clarify, there exists a big difference between volunteering one’s time for a charity versus donating one’s time to a company. People should be commended for generously giving their resources for organizations like Habitat for Humanity or Médecins Sans Frontières, who help people in the direst of circumstances. In contrast to that, companies are in the business of profit. By relinquishing one’s precious time to a corporation, they are only enriching the boss’s bottom-line and prestige, while simultaneously devaluing their colleagues’ wages.
I understand the repercussions of not accepting free workers. I understand that my company will likely be less productive, may not be able to commit to as many competitions and projects as other companies, and may innovate at a slightly slower pace than the rest. But that is the rub. The only reason why this disparity exists is because other organizations are so artificially enriched with underpaid labor.
In the creative community, we all, employees and employers, have an obligation to discontinuing this practice of free or underpaid labor.
If you still feel compelled to help me and my fledgling venture, I encourage you to share my 0001D Website, Facebook, and Youtube accounts with your colleagues. But more importantly, share this post. Let’s send a message that free and underpaid work will not stand anymore in the Creative Industry.