To Free or Not To Free Downloads

January 13, 2017     Empire    

or ‘Are free downloads the marketing tool of the future?’

Working for free or creating free downloads is a question designers, especially early in their career struggle with. Does it devalue our work? Is “exposure” worth the time and effort you put into creating something great for a client? Will that “future project” you talked about ever happen?

This is a question we all have to answer for ourselves. I work for free when I want too, Empire even provides some free downloads for the streaming community. The line is different for everyone, value arguments aside which are also subjective.

  • I might donate my time to a stream which does fundraising for a charity or cause I believe in.
  • I might donate an overlay, social revamp or twitter cover, etc. to support a friend who streams.
  • I might work for less than my normal rate if I felt the promotion I received in return would offset the cost of my time.
  • I might spend my spare time creating something I think is cool for the community and offering it in our free downloads section as a promotional tool.
  • I might donate my time, work, or expertise in any situation not listed here but feels right to me, for whatever reason.

I’ve done most of those things within the last year, and I’m comfortable with the level of my free work. I’ve also turned down invitations because, frankly, it’s my choice as it is yours.

Does FREE mean Bad?

Lets be fair, there’s a lot of terrible creative out there. Bad overlays, home brew graphics your 12 year old cousin did, template reselling, etc. Sometimes even a well intentioned someone who read a few tutorials and has no training, experience or concept of light, shade, shadow, color theory or composition billing themselves as gods gift to graphic design.

None of those things fly at Empire. I’m very careful to uphold our standards of quality and our prices reflect that. I always try to be fair and keep a balanced perspective. Sure there are really amazing content creators out there who do a lot to support the community with free content and assets, but in my experience those are few and far between.

But enough about that.

Why is free or not free even a conversation within the design community? Why are free downloads a bad thing? Some say providing work without payment brings down the entire industry because free work hurts designers trying to make a living. Design for free is not professional. Giving away work in exchange for exposure is a fool’s choice because that exposure very rarely translates to dollar signs.

All that is true, for the most part, but the important word is choice. There are a lot of ways to fail. Producing a shoddy product. Flooding the market with the same old, same old which we touched on before. Putting off your buyers with aggressive sales pitches. Faking awards or sponsorships. Maybe working for free belongs in this paragraph, but again, it’s a choice.

As for for free or not to free, it’s a free country. Do what makes you feel comfortable, what you can afford, and justify that decision however you like. But if you want quality, do yourself a favor and hire a professional.

I spend more time some mornings muting all the retweets of ‘#FREECHEAPGFX #RTRT #OMG @WeRetweetGarbage’ on twitter than I care to admit. We’ve all certainly seen the same templates resold for a dollar 20 times this week by different ‘artists’. Don’t get sold (or not) a lemon. Find someone you trust to make something amazing that’s perfect for you.

Here at Empire, that’s what we do.

Categories: Free Downloads, Noodle Bar

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