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Should we work for free?

Updated: Apr 23, 2018

"What is this madness, what kind of question is this, zero hours contracts are bad enough?!"

That could be your initial response to this question, but could there actually be several reasons why we might, and maybe should, be doing this? And what of the future? Could we one day become a free-working society?

It's also not completely irrelevant and out of the blue as far as CreativeJigsaw are concerned - more on that later.

Time on our hands?

We might all decide to do some work for free at some point, especially in retirement (although this could become less and less common as people find they need to work until they're older and older before they can afford to retire). Some people may also find themselves married to a high earner and, especially if they're the child-carer, when the children are in school they might choose to do some charity work.

Did somebody say UBI?

But maybe we could become a free-working population as a society too - who's heard of the idea of a UBI, that is, a Universal Basic Income?

It seems to be talked about more and as we hear new predictions on what feels like a weekly basis of how artificial intelligence and robots are going to do our jobs for us (the BBC had a report just this week about a new study that's predicting a threat to 1 in 3 jobs in Wales by the early 2030s; apparently the threat varies across the UK, with Alyn & Deeside in the north-east of Wales being the most at risk in Wales and the fourth most vulnerable in the UK).

A UBI would perhaps be funded by a robot tax and would pay everyone a set amount every month, presumably enough to live reasonably comfortably, leaving us free to engage in a pastime we're passionate about, without needing to concern ourselves with our occupation paying the bills. Yes, we'd also be free to add to our UBI by doing some work for reward, but we'd also surely be quite likely, given these conditions, to work on something we enjoy for no pay.

But before we all start getting too excited about this idea...

The government of Finland have just announced that they'll be concluding their UBI experiment (which is currently paying a UBI of around £500 a month to 2000 people) at the end of its two-year study period next year rather than extending it.

I'm an employee...should I?

So, ignoring retirement, a rich spouse and UBI, and considering someone who's employed by a company - you're paid by the hour and contracted to work a set number of hours, so you'd be crazy to work more than those hours without extra pay, right?

Well, there can't be many employers who like clock-watchers, and in today's competitive world anyone who'd like to get on should probably be prepared to work a little bit extra without expecting to get paid extra, just to get the job done and done well. A clear argument for working for free, even though it's working extra for free.

As a freelancer?

Things change a little here as we move into the mindset of the freelancer/self-employed/company owner as opposed to the employee. Do you agree to do work for free? Or are you in fact never actually working for free, even when you're not receiving a direct payment?

If you're someone who's focused on their own venture you'll most likely do lots of things that don't deliver a direct reward - social media, attending business networking events, quoting for jobs, etc. They could all, however, be considered as - ultimately - paid tasks, as they lead to new assignments and build the company's profile.

What about doing actual assignments for free?

So, getting back to the reason why CreativeJigsaw are considering this right now - we've done some work for free this very week. Last week part of the filming for Daleside Vet's promotional film was at a farm, and the friendly farmer asked if he could have some of the aerial shots taken. It's always nice to deliver more than was expected, so the following little sequence was delivered to them...

There'll be no extra pay for delivering this sequence, but it just feels like the right thing to do. Call it good PR perhaps, but sometimes delivering something free of charge makes sense.

Of course, there are other reasons why you might provide your services free of charge. For example, CreativeJigsaw recently held a competition for a business to win a free promotional film. This provided a useful increase in exposure and was a worthwhile exercise, with of course the necessity of some free working to deliver the prize.

So should we...?

In the end, the answer at the moment seems to be yes, sometimes. No one wants to be exploited, but sometimes it's to our advantage to do some work for free. And, who knows, maybe one day it'll be the norm . . .

For details of CreativeJigsaw's film production services to businesses, see here.

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