Would you do 40 hours of work for “exposure”?

TL;DR – I’m sorry but exposure doesn’t foot the bills, you know.

Some people think that freelancers are desperate. They assume that freelancers are so desperate that they would grab any work on any terms. Even if those terms only give freelancers “exposure”. That’s something that freelance artists, photographers, and writers often come across. Now, it seems that some people assume that programmers should also work for exposure.

That’s what happened to Zach Zundel.

What happened?

Zach was asked to develop an app by someone called “Friendaloo”. After he running through the brief, he provided his assessment of what needed to be done. He estimated that it would take him about 40 hours of work. He quoted a total of about $600. That works out to be about $15 an hour, considerably low for coding work. He was also upfront with his preferred payment methods and terms. Sounds fairly professional.

Zach’s assessment of the work and quotation

Cheapskate offer

Friendaloo decided to counteroffer, which is fine. All part of negotiation. It started off well enough with Friendaloo offering Zach stock options because he was confident that the app would go big. Then it quickly went downhill. In the next breath, Friendaloo asked Zach to do the work in return for “exposure”, claiming that he could send many people Zach’s way. He then went on to belittle the work that Zach had to do to get the app up and running.

Zach very calmly told Friendaloo that he won’t do it for free. He pointed out that Friendaloo sought him out of the blue, so he’s doing alright in the “exposure” front. He also reminded Friendaloo that writing code is how he supports himself. That’s why he generally doesn’t do it for free.

Cheapo offer

And it got worse

It could have just ended there. If Friendaloo wasn’t willing to pay for Zach’s work, he could have just stopped negotiating with Zach. He could have just walked away. But he didn’t. He went on to rage at Zach. He prophesied that Zach would be sad and unsuccessful and would regret missing the great opportunity of working on the app.

Friendaloo raging against Zach

As if that’s not enough, Friendaloo called Zach an A-hole.

How rude!

Support for Zach on Twitter

Zach tweeted his interaction with Friendaloo. That went viral, with over 15k retweets and 48k likes. That only riled Friendaloo up even more. Friendaloo claimed that Zach violated his privacy and threatened to sue.

Friendaloo’s really not happy

Notwithstanding Friendaloo’s not-so-friendly reaction, most people were supportive of Zach and praised him for calling out Friendaloo’s behaviour.

Freelancers need to be treated fairly

We are certain that there are freelancers in Singapore who have been in similar situations as what Zach had gone through. Being asked to do work for free is just one of the issues that freelancers have to deal with. Other issues they have to deal with include having to chase their clients for money, drafting contracts, and protecting their intellectual property. All these issues make life difficult for freelancers.

As MP Ang Hin Kee and Director of the NTUC Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit, said,

“The traditional mode of employment has started to change. We want to see working people be able to pick different choices of career – whether as employee or freelancer – and have these lead to the same outcome.”

“This means ensuring freelancers, too, have fair employment terms and that their needs, such as medical insurance, skills training and retirement planning, are met.”

How many freelancers are there in Singapore?

The number of freelancers is in the region of 200,000.

It’s a growing number too, as evidenced by the trend of fresh graduates taking up freelancing work and also with the increasing number of people turning to driving private hire vehicles, like Uber.

How to better support freelancers?

So what will have to change? Ang had previously outlined three areas in which there can be greater support for the freelancers in Singapore,

  • Society must embrace freelancing as part of the changing employment landscape
  • Service buyers must “treat freelancers fairly to achieve a win-win situation”
  • The Government must “tailor policies to be more inclusive and to benefit the freelancers”

For example, the Infocommunications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and NTUC are developing a tripartite standard by 2017 for the procurement of the services of media freelancers.

Also, in partnership with the Singapore Mediation Centre, IMDA will also provide subsidised mediation services to help resolve disputes between media companies and freelancers on contractual matters including late payment and sometimes, non-payment.

Given that freelancers is one of the fastest growing segments of workers in Singapore, more should be done to support them. We also hope that employers and service buyers won’t be like Friendaloo. If there are, they should be called out and shamed, just like what Zach did to Friendaloo.

Because “exposure” doesn’t pay the bills, you know?

(Cover image via)



Author: Jake Koh

Recovering sushi addict, I'm a man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery.


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