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ADVICE & GUIDANCE

Is it ever acceptable to work for free?

Valentine del Giudice
September 18, 2020
September 18, 2020

It’s common to value the worth of an opportunity based on how much it's paid, but collaborating with other creatives can be useful in expanding your skillset

COVID-19 UK FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Are you getting all the help available to you?

As creative practitioners, we are aware it can be difficult to navigate between financial
options available depending on your status. Make sure you are getting all the financial help
available to you by using the table below.
We will keep on updating it with new resources to always provide the most up-to-date financial support info for you!

* If you have another employment paid through PAYE your employer may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

COVID-19 UK FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Are you getting all the help available to you?

As creative practitioners, we are aware it can be difficult to navigate between financial
options available depending on your status. Make sure you are getting all the financial help
available to you by using the table below.
We will keep on updating it with new resources to always provide the most up-to-date financial support info for you!

* If you have another employment paid through PAYE your employer may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

Collaboration between Bouda, Caroline Derveaux, and Polka

The Creators

The Creative

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Universal Credit (1)

You may be able to get Universal Credit if:
• you’re on a low income or out of work
• you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
• you’re under State Pension age
• you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
• you live in the UK

MORE INFO

COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme (3)

If you have employees, you can claim for 80% of their wages plus any employer National Insurance and pension contributions, if you have put them on furlough because of coronavirus. If you have an other employment paid through PAYE your employer may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

MORE INFO



Claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (3)

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either: have coronavirus, cannot work because they are self-isolating at home or are shielding in line with public health guidance.

MORE INFO

HMRC’s Time To Pay (5)

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
• have submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019
• traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
• are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
• intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
• have lost trading pro ts due to coronavirus
• your trading profits must also be no more than £50,000 and more than half of your total income

MORE INFO

Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) & Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) (7)

Small Business Grant Fund Eligibility:
• Businesses with a property that on the 11 March 2020 were eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) Scheme.
• Businesses which on 11 March 2020 were eligible for relief under the Rural Rate Relief
• Scheme are also eligible for this scheme.
Eligible recipients will receive one grant per property.

Hospitality and Leisure Grand Fund Eligibility:
• Properties which on the 11 March 2020 had a rateable value of less than £51,000 and would have been eligible for a discount under the business rates
• Expanded Retail Discount Scheme had that scheme been in force are eligible for the grant.
• Charities which would otherwise meet this criteria but whose bill for 11 March had been reduced to nil by a local discretionary award should still be considered to be eligible for the RHL grant.
• Recipients will receive one grant per eligible property

No need to do anything you’ll be contacted by HRMC if you’re eligible

MORE INFO

Council Tax Reduction (2)

You could be eligible if you’re on a low income or claim benefits. Your bill could be reduced by up to 100%. You can apply if you own your home, rent, are unemployed or working.

MORE INFO

HRMC income support scheme (4)

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
• have submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019
• traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
• are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
• intend to continue to trade in the tax year2020 to 2021
• have lost trading profits due to coronavirus

You will need to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. HMRC will as usual use a risk based approach to compliance.

Your trading profits must also be no more than £50,000 and more than half of your total income for either:
• the tax year 2018 to 2019
• the average of the tax years 2016 to 2017, 2017 to 2018, and 2018 to 2019

MORE INFO

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (6)

You’re eligible if:
• your business is based in the UK
• your business has an annual turnover of up to £45 million
• your business has a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, if not for the coronavirus pandemic
• you can self-certify that your business has been adversely impacted by coronavirus

MORE INFO

Creative industry-specific Grants & Funds (8)

We've compiled a list of grants and prizes available to UK residents, which you can filter by creative industry, to make sure you're seeing grants that are relevant to your practice. We'll be doing our best to keep this list up-to-date with the latest grants and initiatives to support creatives around the UK. All grants listed are open for applications and are automatically removed after the deadline. 

If you are feeling anxious, wondering what the coronavirus crisis means for your practice, feel free to reach out to us at any time.

We’re not experts, but we’re happy to share our knowledge and to try to help you stay optimistic during these tough times. You can contact us from our website chat or on any social media.

MORE INFO

Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) (9)

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.
You can apply for a loan if your business:
• is based in the UK was established before 1 March 2020
• has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

MORE INFO

Universal Credit (1)

You may be able to get Universal Credit if:
• you’re on a low income or out of work
• you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
• you’re under State Pension age
• you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
• you live in the UK

MORE INFO

Council Tax Reduction (2)

You could be eligible if you’re on a low income or claim benefits. Your bill could be reduced by up to 100%. You can apply if you own your home, rent, are unemployed or working.

MORE INFO

COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme (3)

If you have employees, you can claim for 80% of their wages plus any employer National Insurance and pension contributions, if you have put them on furlough because of coronavirus. If you have an other employment paid through PAYE your employer may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

MORE INFO



Claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (3)

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either: have coronavirus, cannot work because they are self-isolating at home or are shielding in line with public health guidance.

MORE INFO

HRMC income support scheme (4)

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
• have submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019
• traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
• are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
• intend to continue to trade in the tax year2020 to 2021
• have lost trading profits due to coronavirus

You will need to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. HMRC will as usual use a risk based approach to compliance.

Your trading profits must also be no more than £50,000 and more than half of your total income for either:
• the tax year 2018 to 2019
• the average of the tax years 2016 to 2017, 2017 to 2018, and 2018 to 2019

MORE INFO

HMRC’s Time To Pay (5)

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
• have submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019
• traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
• are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
• intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
• have lost trading pro ts due to coronavirus
• your trading profits must also be no more than £50,000 and more than half of your total income

MORE INFO

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (6)

You’re eligible if:
• your business is based in the UK
• your business has an annual turnover of up to £45 million
• your business has a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, if not for the coronavirus pandemic
• you can self-certify that your business has been adversely impacted by coronavirus

MORE INFO

Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) & Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) (7)

Small Business Grant Fund Eligibility:
• Businesses with a property that on the 11 March 2020 were eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) Scheme.
• Businesses which on 11 March 2020 were eligible for relief under the Rural Rate Relief
• Scheme are also eligible for this scheme.
Eligible recipients will receive one grant per property.

Hospitality and Leisure Grand Fund Eligibility:
• Properties which on the 11 March 2020 had a rateable value of less than £51,000 and would have been eligible for a discount under the business rates
• Expanded Retail Discount Scheme had that scheme been in force are eligible for the grant.
• Charities which would otherwise meet this criteria but whose bill for 11 March had been reduced to nil by a local discretionary award should still be considered to be eligible for the RHL grant.
• Recipients will receive one grant per eligible property

No need to do anything you’ll be contacted by HRMC if you’re eligible

MORE INFO

Creative industry-specific Grants & Funds (8)

We've compiled a list of grants and prizes available to UK residents, which you can filter by creative industry, to make sure you're seeing grants that are relevant to your practice. We'll be doing our best to keep this list up-to-date with the latest grants and initiatives to support creatives around the UK. All grants listed are open for applications and are automatically removed after the deadline. 

If you are feeling anxious, wondering what the coronavirus crisis means for your practice, feel free to reach out to us at any time.

We’re not experts, but we’re happy to share our knowledge and to try to help you stay optimistic during these tough times. You can contact us from our website chat or on any social media.

MORE INFO

Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) (9)

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.
You can apply for a loan if your business:
• is based in the UK was established before 1 March 2020
• has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

MORE INFO

It’s common to value the worth of an opportunity exclusively on how much it's paid. Yes, everyone needs to make a living - especially during this particularly tough time. Yes, it's crucial to get paid according to your rate to survive as a freelancer. And yes, at SSSHAKE, we all know and agree that it's a constant fight to make people understand that creative work is real work.

The creative industries are tough and competitive, and having a successful career heavily relies on your network. And sadly, many employers have set the tone that it's the norm to be underpaid for years before you can get a decent salary. We all know it's not a pattern that exclusively applies to the creative industries, but it's more shocking in the creative space as creative work is often undervalued. The saturated and rapidly growing global talent pool gives employers the upper hand, and often forces creatives to sell themselves short. That is fundamentally wrong, and we're working towards changing that.


However, I want to draw a line between your practice as a freelancer and your wider practice as a creative. The reality of the industry has discredited collaborations between artists, as the difference between working for free and exchanging skills has become blurry. I believe it’s important to point out the difference between these situations and to shed light on the importance of collaboration within a creative journey.

“You got freedom of expression, make the most of it!” — Tolu Coker, Fashion Designer, Textile Designer and Illustrator, read the full article

Collaborations are about exchanging skills and ideas to create something bigger. Collaborations are about joining forces, about learning from each other, about equal opportunities and reward for all parties involved.


Fine artists and musicians have embraced the collaborative mindset well in the past, to stay inspired and widen their perspectives. From Salvador Dali working with filmmaker Luis Buñuel on silent short film Un Chien Andalou, to Lennon and McCartney working together on songs that changed popular music forever, dynamic creative partnerships are often the cornerstone of truly revolutionary work. But why is that? Because, collaboration enables new associations between ideas, often resulting in innovative combinations. Because, a team of people feeds more creative energy into your project. And having that team and support system can help gain perspective and push through the inertia that can arise at the beginning of the creation process - the well known “writer's block” (which we all know isn't only reserved to writers). And finally, the feedback you get from your creative teammates can also help move your project along in the right direction, overcome any doubts, and hold your imposter syndrome at bay.


Creative collaborations can definitely benefit all creative practices, but unfortunately, they're not that common across all creative industries. Let's take the design industry for example, where, most of the time, projects have a utilitarian purpose, and the benefits of collaborating might not be as instinctive. Same goes for the practices that have high equipment costs, like the film industry.

However, collaborating with other creatives can be extremely useful in expanding your skillset, as you not only learn from your fellow collaborators, but also have access to a space where you can genuinely try out new ideas, with little to no (professional) risk. And it's these kinds of opportunities that enable you to grow as an individual, but especially as a creative practitioner.


"Collaborations are not just there to fill a gap when you are missing a certain skill or practice for your project. Collaborations are about making the other person even stronger. I think that's the core value of true collaboration. But, you cannot just collaborate with anybody. You have to have some sort of similar understanding. Otherwise a collaboration won't lead to the true, beautiful benefits and connection that it can actually bring. Yes, you can work with a random person and create what you want to create, but that doesn't make you any better, nor does it make the other person better." — Jan Bernet, Photographer, read the full article

And so, accepting unpaid opportunities doesn’t have to mean being exploited. It can mean breaking the rules, challenging yourself as a creative, and experimenting with something new. It can mean an opportunity for you to test out a crazy idea you've had for a long time. But, unfortunately, I've met too many creatives that refuse to even look at unpaid opportunities once they start getting paid for what they do. And the problem here is, that by only accepting paid gigs, you end up always answering to a client’s brief, limiting yourself and creative growth to a client's demands. When working with a client, the entire process changes. You have to make sure you translate their ideas as they imagine them.


Don’t get me wrong, it's obviously the paid gigs that are going to pay your rent at the end of the month. But it's also important to stay open to working on projects you feel passionate about, ones you feel will help expand your knowledge. Thinking about the creative process, answering to a brief in a very literal way to make sure a client is satisfied takes a lot of the fun away and stifles inspiration. When was the last time you created for yourself? The last time you broke the rules? Experimented? Played around?


As mentioned before, accepting unpaid opportunities doesn’t always mean undervaluing your work. Creating without being restricted by client demands or strict timelines is a beautiful thing. Expanding your portfolio to new ideas and media is always going to help strengthen your creative identity, at any stage of your career. And the learnings and growth that come out of creating freely with others is something we should cherish.


Feeling like exploring existing collaborative projects or helping someone by sharing your skills? We just launched a community page on SSSHAKE for you to connect with fellow members. Check out what others are up to.

Disclaimer: When you definitely shouldn't work for free

Don't take this article the wrong way: at SSSHAKE, we don't endorse working for free for companies or projects that are intended for commercial purposes, ones where the "hirers" end up racking in a profit off the backs of creatives.


So be careful of what the opportunity is, who's giving it to you, and what you'll gain from it.  Always check:


If the answer is no to one or more of these questions, it's not a collaboration in our book. Once you're aware of all the information related to the project, you can make an informed decision and decide for yourself if it’s worth it or not.

It’s common to value the worth of an opportunity exclusively on how much it's paid. Yes, everyone needs to make a living - especially during this particularly tough time. Yes, it's crucial to get paid according to your rate to survive as a freelancer. And yes, at SSSHAKE, we all know and agree that it's a constant fight to make people understand that creative work is real work.

The creative industries are tough and competitive, and having a successful career heavily relies on your network. And sadly, many employers have set the tone that it's the norm to be underpaid for years before you can get a decent salary. We all know it's not a pattern that exclusively applies to the creative industries, but it's more shocking in the creative space as creative work is often undervalued. The saturated and rapidly growing global talent pool gives employers the upper hand, and often forces creatives to sell themselves short. That is fundamentally wrong, and we're working towards changing that.


However, I want to draw a line between your practice as a freelancer and your wider practice as a creative. The reality of the industry has discredited collaborations between artists, as the difference between working for free and exchanging skills has become blurry. I believe it’s important to point out the difference between these situations and to shed light on the importance of collaboration within a creative journey.

“You got freedom of expression, make the most of it!” — Tolu Coker, Fashion Designer, Textile Designer and Illustrator, read the full article

Collaborations are about exchanging skills and ideas to create something bigger. Collaborations are about joining forces, about learning from each other, about equal opportunities and reward for all parties involved.


Fine artists and musicians have embraced the collaborative mindset well in the past, to stay inspired and widen their perspectives. From Salvador Dali working with filmmaker Luis Buñuel on silent short film Un Chien Andalou, to Lennon and McCartney working together on songs that changed popular music forever, dynamic creative partnerships are often the cornerstone of truly revolutionary work. But why is that? Because, collaboration enables new associations between ideas, often resulting in innovative combinations. Because, a team of people feeds more creative energy into your project. And having that team and support system can help gain perspective and push through the inertia that can arise at the beginning of the creation process - the well known “writer's block” (which we all know isn't only reserved to writers). And finally, the feedback you get from your creative teammates can also help move your project along in the right direction, overcome any doubts, and hold your imposter syndrome at bay.


Creative collaborations can definitely benefit all creative practices, but unfortunately, they're not that common across all creative industries. Let's take the design industry for example, where, most of the time, projects have a utilitarian purpose, and the benefits of collaborating might not be as instinctive. Same goes for the practices that have high equipment costs, like the film industry.

However, collaborating with other creatives can be extremely useful in expanding your skillset, as you not only learn from your fellow collaborators, but also have access to a space where you can genuinely try out new ideas, with little to no (professional) risk. And it's these kinds of opportunities that enable you to grow as an individual, but especially as a creative practitioner.


"Collaborations are not just there to fill a gap when you are missing a certain skill or practice for your project. Collaborations are about making the other person even stronger. I think that's the core value of true collaboration. But, you cannot just collaborate with anybody. You have to have some sort of similar understanding. Otherwise a collaboration won't lead to the true, beautiful benefits and connection that it can actually bring. Yes, you can work with a random person and create what you want to create, but that doesn't make you any better, nor does it make the other person better." — Jan Bernet, Photographer, read the full article

And so, accepting unpaid opportunities doesn’t have to mean being exploited. It can mean breaking the rules, challenging yourself as a creative, and experimenting with something new. It can mean an opportunity for you to test out a crazy idea you've had for a long time. But, unfortunately, I've met too many creatives that refuse to even look at unpaid opportunities once they start getting paid for what they do. And the problem here is, that by only accepting paid gigs, you end up always answering to a client’s brief, limiting yourself and creative growth to a client's demands. When working with a client, the entire process changes. You have to make sure you translate their ideas as they imagine them.


Don’t get me wrong, it's obviously the paid gigs that are going to pay your rent at the end of the month. But it's also important to stay open to working on projects you feel passionate about, ones you feel will help expand your knowledge. Thinking about the creative process, answering to a brief in a very literal way to make sure a client is satisfied takes a lot of the fun away and stifles inspiration. When was the last time you created for yourself? The last time you broke the rules? Experimented? Played around?


As mentioned before, accepting unpaid opportunities doesn’t always mean undervaluing your work. Creating without being restricted by client demands or strict timelines is a beautiful thing. Expanding your portfolio to new ideas and media is always going to help strengthen your creative identity, at any stage of your career. And the learnings and growth that come out of creating freely with others is something we should cherish.


Feeling like exploring existing collaborative projects or helping someone by sharing your skills? We just launched a community page on SSSHAKE for you to connect with fellow members. Check out what others are up to.

Disclaimer: When you definitely shouldn't work for free

Don't take this article the wrong way: at SSSHAKE, we don't endorse working for free for companies or projects that are intended for commercial purposes, ones where the "hirers" end up racking in a profit off the backs of creatives.


So be careful of what the opportunity is, who's giving it to you, and what you'll gain from it.  Always check:


If the answer is no to one or more of these questions, it's not a collaboration in our book. Once you're aware of all the information related to the project, you can make an informed decision and decide for yourself if it’s worth it or not.

A green house with clothes hanging on its doorframe and windows, parked motorcycles outside and the photographer’s shadow in the Dominican Republic
A mother calling her child from outside their home in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19
A pack of cigarettes and a lighted by the edge of a pool in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19
Hands holding a cup of coffee and a cigarette, with the body of a policeman in the background and a child sitting with an umbrella covering his face
A light brown dog on a black seat in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19
Two people crossing a residential street in the Dominican Republic, with a mountain at the end of the road
A man crossing a main road overlooking the ocean, lined with tall palm trees in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19
A man wearing red in the middle of a vast blue ocean in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19
A man on a parked motorcycle, looking straight into the camera, waving, in front of a truck in the Dominican Republic.
A person on their terrace behind a metal gate with a flock of pigeons in front of their house in the Dominican Republic
An abstract view of a yellow building and blue satellite dishes in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19
The entrance to an emergency room with two men around motorcycles in front of the building and a man sat on a bench waiting during COVID-19
A member from a private police force in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, from the back, dressed in military style clothing during COVID-19
A deformed shadow of a person smoking a cigarette and taking a selfie in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19
A yellow corridor with a staircase barred off by emergency tape and a printed sign reading “Atencion" about COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic
View from above of a yellow shopping basket filled with packaged food in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19
View from the top of thirteen dominoes on a ledge, with leaves coming out from behind the railing in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19
Blue and white wall with window in the middle, and a red and yellow fire hydrant below the window in the Dominican Republic
An old tyre with an empty water bottle in the middle, in a green garden, with a sign reading “No tired basura”, translating to “Don't throw trash”
A street in the Dominican Republic showing a row of colourful shops and homes and telephone lines taking over the sky
A white house with a terracotta roof, with palm trees moving in the wind in the background in the Dominican Republic
A fire truck marked “Bomberos" parked on the side of the road with a guy on a motorcycle passing by on its right
The front of a yellow house in the Dominican Republic, with a white door and one white window
View from above of a hand wearing a black glove, smoking a cigarette in the Dominican Republic during the COVID-19 crisis
View of the sky from the window of a plane going to the Dominican Republic

BOOKS

MOVIES

And finally, if you can, donate, sign and share - it can go a long way. Here are links to relevant charities and petitions (donating if you can, or signing and sharing petitions is great immediate help).

BLACK LIVES MATTER, TODAY AND ALWAYS.

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