WHY TEST SHOOTS ARE NOT UNPAID WORK

I want to become a freelance fashion stylist. 

I want to become a freelance photographer.

I want to learn how to become a successful freelance makeup artist.

Whether you’re aspiring to become a creative freelancer or you’ve already managed to establish yourself as one, your focus should always be on creating the best freelance portfolio you possibly can. 

A recent study revealed that the portfolio is a clients number one consideration when it comes to hiring a freelancer for a job. 

Not quite sure how to build a freelance portfolio? It’s time to start test shooting.

If you're new to test shooting or you’ve been reluctant to test shoot in the past, we’d really encourage you to read this article. We explain why test shoots are not unpaid work (a common misconception), but instead a valuable opportunity to create work for your portfolio, meet other freelancers, get job recommendations and more. 

 

We often get asked if freelancers are paid for test shoots. Common questions include “what are model test shoot rates”? Or “do models get paid for test shoots”? 

Technically, if it is truly a test shoot and no one in the team is set to gain commercially from the shoot, the answer is no, models (or anyone else in the team for that matter) do not get paid. It’s much easier if you think of test shoots as collaborations rather than unpaid jobs. 

As this sometimes raises a few eyebrows, allow me to explain why test shoots are not the same as unpaid work.

Unpaid work is when a company or individual commercially benefits from the free labour of others. Often they will offer the promise of paid work in the future, exposure or experience in return for your professional services.

Unpaid work is unethical, exploitative and just plain wrong. There are no two ways about it. At Freelancer Club we’ve always advocated to ensure that freelancers are paid for the work they provide to clients. 

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Test shoots, on the other hand, are not jobs at all. They are creative opportunities where freelancers get to meet other freelancers, try out new skills, experiment with new ideas and produce new work for their portfolios. Nobody is commercially gaining from the shoot nor getting exploited. Unlike unpaid work, it’s not harming a freelancer, damaging the industry or taking a paid job out of circulation. 

What's more, test shoots help freelancers make connections which help them land jobs throughout their careers. When freelancers are just starting out, many end up landing paid jobs through connections they’ve made at test shoots. Members of the team will often recommend each other for jobs and work together on set to bring a client's creative brief to life.

Take photographer Ivan Weiss, for example. He met a makeup artist on one of his first ever test shoots and has worked with her on numerous projects since. 

“I think the first-ever test shoot (collaboration) I did was through Freelancer Club (if not the very first, then within the first two or three).”

“I worked with a makeup artist who to this day, is still the person that I work with the most. We were both in similar positions in having had other careers and deciding a little later in life to go full-on with the freelance career. We did a whole series of test shoots together over the period of about a year, very often with models, actors, dancers that were sourced through Freelancer Club.

...The people that I met on Freelancer Club are people that I continue to work with and continue to be in contact with several years later.”


A Space to Relax and Create 

Paid jobs are great, but they don’t always give freelancers the opportunity to try out new ideas. The client often gives freelancers a strict brief which they’re expected to follow quite closely and therefore there’s not always ample opportunity for freelancers to fully explore their creativity, work on their style or add suitable work to their portfolio. 

Test shoots, however, are more relaxed environments where creative experimentation is encouraged and team members come to the table with a view to trying out new skills, ideas and methods. If you’ve wanted to try out a new product, a new collection, a new lighting style or a new camera setting, for example, a test shoot is the perfect place to do so.

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Create New Work For Your Portfolio

Whether you want to become a freelance fashion stylist, become a freelance photographer or any other kind of creative for that matter, it's imperative that you understand how to build a freelance portfolio. 

Test shooting affords freelancers the opportunity to create the best freelance portfolio they can in a creative and cost effective way. 

Work that you create as part of paid jobs can go into your portfolio, just as content that you create at a test shoot can.

 

Your Very Own Creative Community 

Freelancing is great. It gives you the freedom to choose your work, use your creativity everyday and work for a range of different clients. Saying that, freelancers often work alone, which can get a bit lonely at times. 

One of the many benefits of test shooting is that it enables creatives to connect with other freelancers, which can have a really positive impact on their mental health. 

Research shows that connecting with people and forming positive relationships can enhance an individual's mental well being. Creative and collaborative spaces like test shoots enable individuals to build a sense of belonging and self-worth, share positive experiences with others and provide others with positive support too. 

 

If you clicked into this article looking for an answer to the questions “what are model test shoot rates”? or “do models get paid for test shoots?” I hope you got the answers you needed. 

The key takeaway from this piece is that test shoots are not unpaid work, but opportunities, or creative spaces, where freelancers can meet other freelancers, try out new skills, experiment with new ideas and create new work for their portfolios.

Remember that creating the best freelance portfolio you possibly can is the most effective and strategic way to become a freelance fashion stylist, become a freelance photographer or any other type of freelance creative and that test shooting is a free, collaborative and exciting way to create portfolio content.

You’re never too old or too experienced to test shoot. Many experienced creatives continue to test shoot on a regular basis to push the boundaries of their creativity and connect with like minded creatives. 

Test shooting is for everyone, so get stuck in! 

Apply to join another freelancers test shoot here or set up your own here. 
 

What are model test shoot rates? Do models get paid for test shoots? We’ve answered these questions in this article, but if you’d like to find out about rates for paid model jobs in 2021, check out FREELANCE RATES FOR MODELS 2021.

In the process of learning how to become a successful makeup artist? Check out what you can expect to earn for paid makeup jobs in MAKEUP ARTIST SALARY 2021.

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