Matt is freelancing, so we spend a lot of time on Craigslist these days. Craigslist is a really great way to get legitimate jobs. At the same time, Craigslist is also a flaming crap pile full of jobs promising “no pay, but a great set experience” and “IMDB/copy/meals” as if that is actual compensation.
Working for free is a tricky thing. If you know your craft but have zero set experience, it can be helpful to go ahead and work for free once or twice to get credits. Of course, if nobody was willing to work for free, nobody would have to work for free, but there’s always going to be someone willing to do so for the experience and to get contacts and exposure, so there are always going to be jobs offered without any compensation.
Whether or not things like this are okay, it’s only tangentially related to the topic at hand, but serves as a necessary introduction to the concept. The topic at hand is this: When people try to get staff for free for things that don't actually help anyone's career.
During these past few months, we have seen several posts including and similar to the following:
Yes, they are trying to get event staff for free.
Guys. Excuse me. The only reason anyone ever works for free is to get experience in a field that is hard to break into or to gain contacts within a field that is hard to break into.
Event staff is not a field that is hard to break into because it’s not generally something people aspire to. (Event planning is, obviously, but that’s different.) Working events is something people do for money while they’re otherwise un- or under-employed.
But like, only for money.
Asking for event staff who will work for free is like asking for restaurant or retail workers who will work for free. It is simply not a thing.
The only situation where this would be okay is if the event was for a nonprofit and the nonprofit was using its own regular volunteers for the event staff.
These Craigslist posters try to get away with it by saying things like, “The event is from 6:30 to 10 but you’ll only need to work from 6-8 and you can mingle afterward.” Oh, really? Thanks. So I get to attend the event for the last two hours in my event staff uniform after everyone has seen me working for the first hour and a half? Cool!
But I even saw one listing that said, “Note: This is not an event where networking will be an option.” So like, please tell me, what’s in it for me? At all? Why would I not just sit at home? Because there is nothing about this listing that is going to benefit me whatsoever, even monetarily, which is the only reason I would be interested in the first place.
Just, as a general rule, people need to get it together and realize what people are and aren’t willing to do for free. If you can’t afford to hire event staff, you can’t afford to host an event. Sorry!