Stop asking me to work for free. It's really getting to a point where it's just kind of obnoxious. In the last couple of months, I've gotten two inquiries from the journalism department and one forwarded from a local paper asking if I could just pick up some freelance work...for free. Just go out, report a story or write some copy and hand it over to someone in exchange for nothing.
This would be one thing if a.) I were an underclassman rather than somebody who has already completed a journalism major and has a boatload of professional clips; or b.) I was going to get published somewhere that would give me a really money clip; or c.) I was getting in on the ground floor of something entrepreneurial and awesome. But actually, no I will not spend hours reporting a piece for your free college guide or your bus station music rag. I'm young, but I have experience under my belt, I do good work and I deserve to be paid for it. I've written for free and I've written for a paycheck, and surprise! The paycheck is nicer. Working for free is okay if you're really learning something, or again, if you're getting those million dollar clips. But you're just asking me to do work and not get paid. Period.
I know this is how the business is right now, but it is bullshit. Creative people--writers in particular, but also designers etc.--are in a position where we're all expected to act grateful for the privilege of working for free, and it's crap. Go on JournalismJobs.com or the writing gigs section of Craigslist. Half the stuff on there is unpaid work. Work your ass off, we'll throw it up on our site and take the ad revenue and you get to...what? Get a clip from some shitty website? Fuck that noise.
Nobody expects accountants to work for free. You don't get your hair cut for free, you don't get free car washes. The problem with things like writing and design is that a lot of people labor under the delusion that any monkey with a computer can do them. Guess what? This is actually what I do. It's work. It's as real a service as a haircut, and yes I most likely can do it better than you. That sounds cocky, but I don't care. Unless the New York Times comes knocking (yeah sure) I'm really over working for free.