Promises of “exposure” won’t pay the bills. But time and time again, freelancers from across the creative industries are being asked to work for free. A survey by the Association for Independent Professionals in conjunction with The Freelancer Club last year found that freelancers in the creative industries are estimated to lose £5,394 each a year, many of them exchanging their hard-earned skills simply for exposure, or a chance of building their portfolio in an increasingly competitive industry.
So it was rather ironic this week when freelance writer and creative arts producer Amber Massie-Blomfield was asked by The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the very organisation responsible for welfare policy, to get involved in an employment marketing campaign – a campaign she wouldn’t be getting paid for.
Amber took to Twitter to vent her frustration.
The Department for Work and Pensions asked me, a freelance writer, to create content to promote their #HerWayIn campaign for empowerment in female employment – without being paid… NOPE. @DWP pic.twitter.com/EDq6lmbeWL
— Amber Massie-Blomfield (@ambermb) June 21, 2018
The DWP approached Amber to take part in the campaign which she said “is about empowering women to find different routes into employment and different kind of employment models.”
“They wanted me to participate in the creation of a video where I would state my support for the campaign and share my expertise as a freelancer and how I’ve made my career work,” Amber told The Big Issue over the phone. “As well as writing a blog sharing my advice to how to pursue a freelance career.”
Amber was initially interested in getting involved in what the DWP claimed was a chance to “redefine the conversation” around employment opportunities for women, but when learning there was no fee involved took to the internet to call out the controversial approach.
“I’m a freelancer and I earn my living through selling my time. Everyone else on this campaign is presumably getting paid. The videographer presumably won’t be doing this for free, and the staff at the DWP who developed the campaign certainly won’t be, so why should I?” she said.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
Amber noted that while she wasn’t going to pursue the issue further, she was in a “privileged position” to call the UK’s largest government department out for its “problematic approach”.
“I felt confident enough to turn around and call them out on that unacceptable practice but I do wonder how many other people starting out in their careers, others in more pressing circumstances would feel able to respond like I have,” she told The Big Issue.
The Big Issue reached out to the Department for Work and Pensions for comment.
A DWP spokesperson said in an email: “We are working on a campaign to encourage girls and women to consider diverse career opportunities through sharing stories from real life role models. We are not asking people to work for free. If people want to get involved voluntarily we are providing all the support needed to tell their story.”
Image: DWP/Amber Massie-Blomfield