Why Do So Many People Expect Freelancers to Work for Free?

I like Matt Taibbi. He’s an excellent journalist for Rolling Stone, and he’s written several interesting books.

Today, on Twitter, he announced a little “contest,” asking people to create a logo for him so he could use it as a Twitter avatar, and on t-shirts, to promote his next book.


The “prize?” A copy of the book, and a couple of t-shirts.

I replied, pointing out that he was asking someone to do design work for free.


Mr. Taibbi pointed out that he had paid a designer to design the book; that this wasn’t, apparently, as important, at least not important enough to merit compensation.


As a freelancer, I find it insulting when people expect anyone to work for free. Especially because it is increasingly common, and the reason cited is often that you’ll get “exposure.”

I wasn’t the only person to respond in this way to Mr. Taibbi’s offer, but I seem to have been the first. He clearly thought about this, then, few minutes later, he offered to “throw in a $500 prize,” which, to me, is a perfectly valid way to resolve the issue. But Mr. Taibbi became irked. A few minutes later, he gave up.


Rather than say, “Oops, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have expected people to work for free,” he just saw it as people being “upset.” He didn’t apologize; that would be an admission that he had done something untoward…

It’s a shame when an author of his calibre – notably one who wrote a book entitled Griftopia – thinks that he can just trawl Twitter to get himself a logo. I think given the amount of money he earns as a journalist, he could afford to pay a designer. Sure, he’s just looking for a “scribble,” he says, but the idea behind that scribble has value.

It’s a shame that an author like this thinks that he can grift his Twitter followers and Rolling Stone readers into doing a job for him. It’s a shame that anyone thinks they can do this. Freelancers have a hard enough time earning a living without this sort of grift.