85% of freelance graphic designers were asked to work for free last year

A new survey has revealed an attitude of 'corporate entitlement' when it comes to how freelancers are treated.

When is it okay to work for 'exposure'? It's a question that's sure to make the blood of thousands of freelance graphic designers boil. But according to research by Manchester startup Approve.io, more people are willing to work for free than you might think.

Out of a poll of 1009 UK adults who engaged in freelance work in the past five years, research found that 85 per cent of graphic designers had been asked to work for free in 2016, and that 9 per cent agreed to do so.

The only sector asked to work for free more often than graphic designers were photographers, of whom 87 per cent were asked to work for nothing and 16 per cent agreed. Also in the results were illustrators (81 per cent asked, 8 per cent complied), front-end developers (74 per cent asked to work for £0, with 5 per cent agreeing to) and back-end developers (71 per cent asked, 4 per cent up for it).

A serious problem

The findings reveal that on average 70 per cent of freelancers were asked to work for free in 2016, and that 9 per cent agreed to the idea. Of this 9 per cent, 80 per cent said they did it for the experience, and that under-25s are almost twice as likely to work for free compared to their over-25 counterparts.

Working on-spec rarely works out the way the freelancer expects and it can lead to a broad lowering of demand for experienced professionals.

Sir Cary Cooper

“I think this is a serious problem," says occupational health expert, Sir Cary Cooper. "It’s natural for freelancers to look to build relationships with potential clients, and working on-spec is tempting when the client dangles the carrot of future commissions. But it rarely works out the way the freelancer expects and it can lead to a broad lowering of demand for experienced, but comparatively expensive, professionals.

“Some businesses, especially those in glamorous or competitive industries, do suffer with a sense of entitlement. They appear to believe that having their name on your portfolio is payment enough for a young, inexperienced freelancer.”

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