Unrewarding volunteering

film camera

Last  month, I volunteered for a gig and found myself facing the challenge of a rude and unappreciative employer.

We have all done some work for free that feels a little bit like you are being used. Don’t get me wrong – I love volunteering, and I am always very happy to do work for good causes. This time however, I think I have learnt a valuable lesson in standing up for myself when people are trying to take advantage of you.

On Saturday night, I was working a late-night photography job at around 11:30pm. When I was initially contacted, the producer explained they couldn’t pay me but offered me compensation in the form of a Fringe pass which they could provide me at no cost to themselves. I was happy with this arrangement and keen to get some professional work. But from the moment I turned up at the venue, they refused to listen to any technical advice I offered in terms of improving lighting and camera positioning, they ignored me and didn’t even discuss how they would provide the compensation. 

At the time, I made excuses for them! I thought they must be a bit pressed for time and stressed out about producing the show. At the end of the show, they packed up and gave me an email to upload the photos too. Goodnight to you too, sir! Shaking it all off and thinking myself a bit immature to be upset, I sent through the edited photos the next day. And then we had download issues and I had to rearrange the files and resend the link, again. Overall, I put in more time than I probably would have liked to and had done everything they asked for but at the end of the day, they seemed to blame me for the technical issues and despite the fact that I had sent professional quality products, they neglected to even thank me for the work.

I know this is a bit of a rant but I think it is an important one. I did not listen to my gut when it was telling me that things were a bit off and I continued to blame myself for issues that were completely unrelated to my work. When people ask me to do things for free, or with alternative compensation, I think I need to evaluate the value of the work and the cause first before agreeing, definitely a bit of a learning curve for me. Sometimes people think that just because you are a student, your labour is available to them for free or in exchange for 'experience' and it is something worth watching out for.

Tagged in What messes with your head, working, volunteer