“Exposure” sadly is not worth anything. You’re better off starting your own website or blog if you want “exposure.” Sure, some place like Huffington Post will put your article in front of millions of viewers, but no one really thinks about or cares about the writer. In all of the Facebook shares I’ve seen of HuffPost articles, the only real paying attention to the writer is whether or not it’s a female or a male.
I’ve had people tell me that I should give them my time “for exposure” or “for your portfolio” for a website that should cost over $5,000. In fact, I’ve had people tell me I should give them a $12,000 site (usually involving specialized content management systems, and other heavily detailed work) for “my portfolio.”
What it gets me is MORE people asking for “free” websites to “fill out my portfolio.”
It’s not that I’m too proud to do it. It’s that I’ve gone that route. In fact, for a number of years I worked for John Kovalic (of DorkTower fame). And yes, he dropped me some money once in a while – usually around Christmas. But, the agreement was mostly for the “exposure of it.”
And all I got were more people asking me to volunteer to do their website for them.
I probably put in multiple thousands of hours working for Mr. Kovalic – and even at $50/hour even only 1,000 hours would have been $50,000. And working with him was somewhat fun. But the “exposure” really did me no good. Nor has any of the other “volunteer” sites I’ve done for other people (many of whom want a content management system).
Additionally, most of those groups that want me to volunteer my work seem to not understand the concept of copyright. Actually, that’s something that even paying clients sometimes seem to forget. Having me create a website that looks EXACTLY like someone else’s site, and using the words from that site as well is COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. And as such, you can get sued for it.
Or people want me to do “black hat SEO” because their brother or their cousin or someone else encouraged them to do it. The problem being that most search engines will BAN YOUR SITE FOR LIFE from their results if you use those tactics. The guys who tell people ot use those tactics only stick around long enough for the excitement of the first time seeing their website in the #1 slot, then they disappear. And the site owner is left with a site that NO ONE can find, unless the site owner tells them about it.
So yes, when it comes to my work – as with most of the rest of my life – ethics are pretty important to me. If you expect me to do something that is either unethical or stupid, I won’t do it. And if you ask me to do it for free? I’ll laugh in your face.