As a young woman struggling to make ends meet as a chef in Nigeria’s harsh economy, I was recently shocked when a catering client expected 30 extra plates for an event while refusing to pay for them. She cited “exposure” and “good for my brand” as justification.
This exploits a disturbing trend — asking vulnerable people barely getting by to work for free, in exchange for intangible benefits like brand awareness or connections. Due to this, these creatives become overexposed, but they are still poor or barely scraping by. I find it even more disturbing that creatives in developing countries are often subjected to this exploitation.
Beyond volunteers ethically contributing time for the greater good, most people cannot afford to work extensive hours without fair compensation. Between covering rent, transportation, basic necessities, and hopefully savings, unpaid labor earns nothing to live on despite promised exposure. Especially when extra services require more ingredients and supplies paid out-of-pocket by the provider.
The client’s privileged assumption that a struggling young woman should gratefully bear lost profits is problematic. Despite cultural norms about elders deserving deference, the basic dignity of labor should be upheld across generations.
Exposure does not pay present bills or justify free skilled services from creatives, vendors, and other hustling entrepreneurs. If you want quality work, pay for it so providers can reinvest and grow instead of burning out on poverty wages. Allies should support vulnerable dreams through fair transactions, not endless exploitation.
Societal empathy needs cultivating too — help end beliefs that poverty equals obligation for free benefits to the powerful. Everyone’s time and effort deserve compensation, and “exposure” alone has never proven enough for artists or entrepreneurs to survive and thrive. Pay them