Keeping Up with the Calligraphers

Calligraphers Exposed: When to Work for Exposure

January 16, 2024 Alex Hirsch + Cat Brown Season 1 Episode 5
Keeping Up with the Calligraphers
Calligraphers Exposed: When to Work for Exposure
Keeping Up with the Calligraphers
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Transcript

Clickbait, oo ha ha! Cat of Cat Lauren Calligraphy and Alex of Signs of Our Lives chat about their experiences working for “exposure” in the events industry: when they’ve said “f%k no,” when they’ve said “h#LL yes” and negotiated terms, and when they were down for a trade. 

Support the show

Follow us in all the places!

Podcast, Keeping Up with the Calligraphers

Alex Hirsch, Signs of Our Lives

Cat Brown, Cat Lauren Calligraphy

Hey everybody, welcome back to Keeping Up With The Calligraphers. I am Cat of Cat Lauren Calligraphy. And I'm Alex of Signs of Our Lives. And we are here with our first episode of 2024 and we're pumped and we're excited, since we snuck in our last one at like 9pm on December 31st. Snuck that last one in here. So first one of 2024.

Yeah. It feels weird that it's a new year, but it's fine. We're here. We're trying our best and we're trying to gear up for what will come this year. Which is why I wanted to, well, why we wanted to release that right before the new year so you had something to listen to right away to motivate you if you're one of those people. I'm not one of those people, but I think a lot of people are. So here we are.

Today we are actually going to be doing something a little bit different. We'll see if it actually ends up correct. We are anticipating this to be a mini episode. We're going to extend off of something that we started talking about in the last episode, which was working for exposure or working for trade, all of those things. So that is what today's hopefully mini episode will be about. But before we jump into it, Alex, do you have any news, anything fun you want to share, any of that good stuff?

I have two fun things that I would love to share. One, for me, I will be hosting a chalk lettering workshop in San Diego on January, let me look at my calendar, 27th. It's the Saturday. So if you're local to San Diego or close to San Diego, I would love to have you join me. There's only eight tickets available and some have been taken already. So if you would like to sign up to learn a little bit about chalk lettering, hand lettering, I would love to have you join me.

And then the second thing that I wanted to share was that we have created a bingo card. Oh yeah. Yeah. Our 2024 bingo card. Yeah, so Cat is, in my head, you're known for saying “that was not on my bingo card for da da.” So Cat made a bingo card and then we added some fun ideas of all the things that could happen this year, all the things that might happen at events, some things that have happened to us. So hopefully you'll get to fill your bingo card or at the very least get bingo.

Those were like a suggested board, but if you have very specific goals in mind or something like that you want to place on your own bingo card, there is also a blank one that is available. So you can fill in your own squares and then play along on your own time with your own goals, all of that fun stuff. So there is the one that we made and then also a blank one if you want to play your own game. Yeah, exactly. So it could go either way. First person to get bingo, we have a special surprise for you. There's some people that are actually already starting to fill them out, which is amazing. I personally do not have any events booked till the end of January. Or at least public events started until the end of January. So I am like amazed that people are already going and they're already talking about things for next week, which is amazing. So yeah, we would love if you could join us on our Instagram. It's @keepingupwiththecalligs, and that's where you can pretty much share your feedback. We have a post up there where you can screenshot and fill out the bingo card, whether it's the one that we already have, we made a template or one that you want to fill out on your own with your own goals.

Did we save it on a highlight too? Yes, sorry. Also saved on the highlight. Okay, perfect. Cause I think, I don't know, the other thing is like shorter because it cuts off or may or may not cut off the bottom where you can tag everybody else. Not everybody else, but at least three of your Calligra-besties. Again, we're trying to build a community and we would love to see all of us cheering each other on and having some friendly competition with the bingos. So make sure you grab the one either on the highlight or ask one of us, we will have the copies and we would be more than happy to send it to you.

So those are the things going on with me. And I know you're on your little holiday break, which is amazing for you. And Cat is implementing all the things from our last episode and has been going, going, going. So I'm very proud of her. Thank you.

You're so welcome. I was again, I will do like a little vulnerable moment. I was feeling like very imposter syndrome after we recorded that episode. So whether that is truth or not, that was just like the way I was feeling after that. So it feels good to like take some action. And I think just like I took a couple of days off of my career job. So I feel like that has given me a little bit more space to be creative and I sparked some like very wild ideas that I'm interested to see how they play out and if they pay off. Maybe we'll do a podcast about that one day.

Right? Listen, you have been highly motivated and I have not been just yet. So I am hoping to soak up some of that like motivational energy to move forward into this year. I think it's awesome. Thank you. I appreciate it.

You're so welcome. Okay, so today's episode exposure, a dirty word. So exposure. Exposure. Let's go over it. So it gets a bad rep, I think because a lot of influencers, I don't know, I guess, yeah, influencers mostly. A lot of influencers would work for exposure, meaning a brand would reach out to them, a brand would say - have a million followers and say, hey, would you promote our content for exposure to this? And sometimes they would like have people and I'm saying this in past tense, but it's probably present tense as well. And it's probably still happening. Hopefully it's gotten a little bit better. But when the influencer trend started, I guess, like 10 years, 10 years ago, maybe less than 10 years ago, I feel like less 2015. Maybe.

I don't know. We'll just call it recently. We'll call it recent. So brands would reach out to people who had a larger following and they would basically not pay them to create content. That doesn't pay the bills and exposure doesn't pay for anything. And it's a promise that oftentimes a lot of brands, a lot of companies can't necessarily keep to whoever they're quote unquote paying in exposure.

Well, for a variety of reasons. But yeah, so that's pretty much why it gets a, you know, a bad rep, I would say. Yeah, and understandably so. Yeah, because exposure does not pay the bills. So if anyone's trying to pay you in, oh, we'll give you followers or more people will see your stuff or something like that, more likely than not, not a great idea for your business.

Whether you're an influencer or whether you're a calligrapher or whether you're an artist, it doesn't pay for things. So today, we wanted to kind of, I don't want to say like, what was it called when you like, oh my gosh, what was it called? Myth bust. When you're like, yeah, we're not exactly here to like bust that myth. But we are here to talk about like when it is maybe appropriate to work for “free.” And that's in quotes.

because you're not working for free. You're hopefully working for a return on whatever services or products that you are providing. So what that could look like when you when it's kind of like something you could say yes to as well as maybe like some trade situations, stuff like that. So Cat, anything to add to that? And if not, then maybe when it has or when it has not worked for you.

The only thing I wanted – well, there's a lot to add, but I think it'll fit in later. But kind of with that intro, you added something or you sent it to me today. Oh my God. That post about the like working for exposure. What was it? Can you pull it up? Because I feel like it was just so pertinent. It was something along the lines of essentially like, no, I can't work for free to make money for your business or something along those lines.

Tell us what it said. It was a post by Mahdi Woodward that said, forever mood, unfortunately, I can't take on any unpaid work to help you make money at this time. Thanks for thinking of me though. Which is always the mood, always the vibe. But I think what we're here to do is maybe offer a different perspective. I feel like it does not have to be an immediate no.

If there is a way for you to talk about potentially some actual deliverables, even if it is not compensation that could still be beneficial for you or your business, or just, again, try to treat it as though it is still a viable lead. And so just be like, no, thanks, bye. Like how can you coach that client or how can you put yourself maybe in a better situation by asking questions, getting more information to see if it is something that you can turn into either paid work or something that still benefits you and your business.

That's, I mean, such a good point just about how it always comes down to, in my opinion, just like educating your client or potential client or potential buyers or potential inquiries. Because a lot of times people aren't in your industry and people don't know your job or how your job works or all the things. So I think it's a really good point that it's something that it really comes down to how can you maybe be an opportunist in this situation, and get what the potential client or inquiry wants while also getting what you might want or need at the same time.

Have you done anything for experience or for exposure? Work for free, anything like that. So what are your? Yes, I have, I don't know about anything for exposure that I could think of other than potentially like doing like two hours instead of three hours for an event and just being like, ah, it's okay. Like it's still gonna be like a really great even,t or like something like that. But I can't think of any situation where I've specifically worked without compensation in the form of any sort of like following or people seeing me or there being like something on the news or an article or something like that. But I have definitely worked for trades, but maybe we can talk about that later. Cause I would love.

Yeah. I was going to say, and I feel like the difference about like the for exposure is it's like, maybe the difference is them reaching out to you about something that will benefit them with the only offer that will benefit you is that you are going to be exposed to what they perceive to be your audience, your client, something that would be beneficial to you. And they may or may not be correct on that. They could be very far off on that. So I feel like that's where that is.

Um, I know both you and I have done work for free that we felt like we either reached out or maybe they reached out to us, but we felt very aligned with it, whether it was like a fundraiser or like something like that, where we felt like donating our time was valuable to us because again, the alignment or whatever else. So that being, I just want to clarify being different than like with maybe who is reaching out and then the difference being like, who is benefiting? Like, are you benefiting equally in the situation? Or are, is the person approaching you benefiting more than you would?

I feel like is a good gauge on like, Yeah, like is it equal? The difference. And is there like, there's not like power dynamics at play. Right? Yeah. I think that's a good comparison because yeah, I've definitely donated my services to nonprofits or organizations. Very different. Very, very different. That's like donating. Right.

I have done probably like two or three things like for exposure. And what I will say is I had a very positive experience with all three of them, but I do think there were things that I did to protect myself or to at least guarantee things that I felt like could be valuable. So yeah, so this kind of will like bleed into like maybe some of our suggestions or whatever, but things that made it successful for me was one, I made them send me like their metrics, like who is your audience on Instagram? Like are you even in my area? Right? Like luckily for me, I am in like Orange County, LA area.

So geographically, I tend to be in a similar area to that of the audience of a lot of the people that tend to reach out for that type of work. But yeah, I asked to see like, what is the age range, like, where are they located? Let me see the actual numbers. And if they're like shifty with that, you know, that kind of tends to be a red flag, but they were very upfront with that. So I was able to vet like, okay, like your audience for like the trade or whatever else is gonna make sense for me. Or like, I would make them give me some type of an idea of like, who do you think you're exposing to that, like exposing me to that you think is gonna be helpful. So again, I could like vet that out because if it's like- People who wouldn't necessarily require your services. Like just like a fully not related brand. Yeah. Like if it's like- I don't know, like, were they're just like, not typically going to see my value? Like, no, I don't like just because they have big incomes doesn't mean like, I think they're going to be ideal clients for me.

So I was the first thing I kind of like vetted who or what do you think you're exposing me to, and then I came up with deliverables. So one of them was content. I want it to look like this or like whatever else. So I had like very clear things that I was looking for from that to actually like put myself in the best situation. And then for a different one. Oh, I had a question for you. So for the first one, my question would be, did they deliver on their deliverables? And this is my fear about trading services as if your part is first and then the second part, they can just totally like ghost you and like not up and you have to uphold the contract and stuff like that. So like what gave you like the confidence that they would be able to and actually deliver the things that they said they would and then to like uphold the contract if not?

Yeah. So for both of these things, I was going to say I had contracts in place that it was not just like my templated contract, which I feel like a lot of us tend to use because those don't typically cover this type of, I mean, I know there's some out there, but it doesn't tend to encompass like the calligraphy business piece for me. And then also like, kind of like the negotiation piece or whatever, they're just like, they tend to be two very different contracts. So I did actually like, have a lawyer look it over. And I had three industry experts that they helped me kind of like navigate that.

So I did get like, I pulled in like some expert people and then talked to them like, hey, does this is this like normal in terms of negotiation? So I guess reaching out to other people that could help like verify for me. So what and they didn't give me any reason to feel like they're going to ghost me or whatever else. Like they were very like pleasant when we were talking. Like it seemed like it was something that they've like done before. They like understood how to answer your questions and like gave you actual answers that weren't like super vague. Okay.

Oh yeah. Yeah. You could tell it was very much like they had like, this was a team that worked specifically about that type of a thing. So I didn't, yeah, I didn't have any worry about that. It felt very much like. That's awesome. So yeah, so I essentially had like deliverables outlined for another one. It was like, okay, like I would like access to your content. Like you have your own photographer videographer. I would like access to those albums. And you need to sort that out with your photographer, videographer, because they are the ones that have the copyright and they are the ones that technically have to give permission, not you. You don't own those things. 

So, yeah, well, you know me, I'm literally horrific at trying to get content on site. So I was like, all right, at minimum, if I do this and it doesn't work out, this is money I don't have to spend towards another branding session. This is helpful for me because now I at least have like these photos, I have not used them yet. Let's be clear, because I'm a hot ass mess, but I have them. You're the hottest mess. Such is life. I have them when I, yeah, I have them. I got all of those things. And then, again, the last piece that I just touched on, I had a contract in place for those things. I reached out to some people I know that normally work in that type of a space that they are very privy to, like the ethics of these types of negotiations, like the language that should be included or not included or questions I should ask, things like that. So I didn't feel alone in it. And I felt confident that they were actually like business decisions.

So what I'm hearing you say is that you tapped into your resources, your community, and you got yourself educated before just making a decision, before just saying yes, before making an agreement, or no.

Yeah. Because these were not things that were offered up front. Like these were things that I was like, oh, free is not an option for me. But, and then I you know, it started with me asking like, what is your budget? Because I was like, all right, let me see like is doable. And they were like, we have no budget. It's like, okay.

Um, you do have a budget, just not for me. I would like to clarify. So that was where I was like, okay, like what resources are available to them that maybe don't cost them money from this budget that is allocated, but they have access to these resources that could still be beneficial for me. So, um, these were things that again, did not start as the offer.

Nobody's emailing you and being like, well, I guess if you're like a styled shoot, I guess technically would fall under that. Yeah. But that's not what this was. As you were talking about OC things, I was like, oh, I did do some trades for styled shoot type things, but I'm… I feel like that's a little different. I feel like that's a different category that we can just like mark as like not the same.

Yeah. Yeah, I feel like that is different because that is like a commonality in like wedding, the vendor world, I feel like, which does not necessarily make it like right or wrong about the compensation piece of that. That's a whole different rabbit hole for another day. But that is much less common in events. Like they're not people are not just like putting together events for like content.

So for anyone who doesn't know what a styled shoot is, it's basically where a bunch of vendors come together, typically wedding vendors. So like photographer, event planner, cake baker, calligrapher, you know, someone usually like a couple model, a dress designer, store, a venue, you know, the things that make it look like a wedding. And they, yeah, they put together a faux wedding scene and then they photograph the details and the couple posing and things like that. And that A gives everyone content, B like is a great way to network. Honestly, I feel like I networked a lot with

That was amazing. And then like if you're, for instance, like I as a calligrapher was looking for, you know, how to promote Agate Stones, right? Like my lettering on Agate Stones, but like how I don't have, I can't photograph it well at home, right? So it's like a great way to, for everyone to get their stuff professionally photographed while also like setting a scene and like having people who might be looking for you. With like the full context. Yeah, which I think just like really helps when you can see like a specific thing in the setting that it's supposed to be in as opposed to just like a white wall or something like that. So. Yeah. Yeah, that is a style shoot.

Different than what we're talking about. Different, that's not, well, it is exposure, but that's like totally different, totally, totally different.

We're supposed to do a short episode. So Cat, can you tell us a couple more ways in which working for quote unquote exposure has worked for you. Um, I mean, I think that was those were like my main big ones. I it's not something that I do all the time. So I don't want that misconception to be like what I'm talking about here. I've gotten certainly like a lot more offers, but I vet them, right? Like, and you can vet some of them pretty quickly, like the first email, like you could be like, there's clearly no budget here. Whatever else, there's not something that I feel like is valuable for me to switch this. So that's not to say you have to go through multiple correspondence back and forth to vet this information. But if something that catches your eye, you're like, okay, I could see this being a good audience, or I could see this being a good networking opportunity, or something along those lines.

This is more intended to be like, okay, there are ways that could be workable that may not be compensation. But again, trade for photos that you don't have to pay for later, you know, whatever else. So, yeah, so that wanted to bring that up.

Yeah, that's primarily what I have done with like other vendors, or other people. So… is a lot of trades. So I first did it. I love a trade. Yeah, that boutique, the like the friend, the friend that I had that worked on a boutique in Baltimore – I loved this $250 leather jacket and I was obsessed with it. And of course, I bought the extra small so I can no longer fit into it, even though it has my logo on the back. It's so fucking cute. But I can't wear it anymore, it's too small. Got these muscles over here. Yeah, so we traded clothes. I would do certain like window designs for her and then in exchange I was like, well, this is how much it would be or like, and we'd trade for like clothes that like I was going to buy already or that I wanted to buy but like I just personally could not also have traded with a ton of photographers for a branding shoot, for a couple shoot. I've done like free jackets for them. I've recently traded signage and vinyl like for micro-needling, so that's why my eyebrows, if anyone, if we ever put this on YouTube, why my eyebrows are so dark right now because I just got a touch up, but yeah, we basically figured out what would be a good trade and that's something that I really wanted to get done, but personally didn't want to spend the money on. And it totally worked out because they reached out to me and I was like fuck yeah.

Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Like absolutely. I've been wanting to get this done. And now I can trade tattoos with people, which I am thrilled about. Very excited about. I have done that. I haven't like followed through yet on like what I want from them, but I have done a couple of quote unquote free tattoos to get photography and also some like, oh my God, like operations management assistance.

Gotcha. Yeah, that's nice. I love a trade. First of all. Yeah, I love trades. I love a trade. I've definitely done like wedding vendor to wedding vendor stuff. So like, I'll do this for your wedding. If you do this for my wedding, a lot of that. I have done a lot with like cafes, like I would do their window or something else. They just have like a running tab for me whenever I want to come get like coffee or food or something like that. It's the best. I've been, I've been pitching myself to our, my local cafe. I'm like, I will do your chalkboards. Just give me lattes every day. Please. Because I'm going to be spending the money anyway. Yes. Correct. And then I did a, I did like a half and half. So this is also a negotiation I did with an athletic clothing company that I love and adore. They wanted me to do on-site stuff and I was like, yeah, I can't do it for the price that you're wanting. And they offered, they were like, what about we pay for half of the hours with money and half of the hours in clothes? I was like, immediately yes. So I loved that. That continues to work out very well for me.

Yo, I love that. I love a good trade. And here's the thing, and I've been offered, for instance, there was a yoga studio, like a hot yoga studio that reached out to me that was like, hey, could we do a trade for this? I don't do hot yoga. So I was like, no, this doesn't make any actual sense.

Right. So I think it's like also important to know, like, if you are doing trades, like, it's got to be something like you want as well. Like, you shouldn't just trade for the sake of trading. Like, it should be something you already want or something that you would want or need even also, like, have capacity to do in terms of like, yes. Yeah. Like physical, mental, energy sort of capacity, but also like financial capacity. Like, I wouldn't really be trading stuff if I wasn't booking projects to like hit my numbers each month, you know, that sort of thing. So I think that's important to keep in mind as well. Like, don't just like do it because, you know, I mean, I'm a bougie bitch. I fucking love bougie things. So I feel like I'm not one to talk, but like I was gonna say, like, don't just do it to be bougie, but like, if you're at a point where you can do it, then like go for it.

Like I think… Like I said before, it gets a bad rep, but like it could be super fun. And if you have the capacity financially and then in other areas like, fuckin go for it. That's my. Yeah. And I think, again, same with the like trade, like just being aware of like the power dynamic or the power balance in it again, like it should be mutually beneficial in the same way, like at the same like price point as like your services, like they shouldn't. Well, whatever, you do you, it's your business, but like I would not recommend taking a trade that does not equal what they should have paid you for example. So like if you're doing something that should be $200 an hour, they should not be doing a trade for like $50 worth of product. Yeah, right like it needs to be it was like we'll give you a $50 gift card for five hours of services. Get the fuck out of here. Yeah, you'd be like no I love Target, but no fuck off.

Yeah, I think that's like so important to note. Like it should be, if not equal, like equitable as much as possible. And if you're ever feeling like an ick or a gut punch, it's like, oh, maybe not. Like that is your sign. Maybe talk it through with someone. Don't just say yes. Reach out to us. Yeah, reach out to us. We would love to talk you through it. Or another Caligra bestie that you feel comfortable, confident, warm and fuzzy with. Yeah. I mean, go with your gut if you, like always. That's always my advice. If your brain doesn't know, your body does.

So we have enjoyed interacting with you all on social media so much. One more time, I'm going to say, Keeping Up With The Calligs is our Instagram. So make sure to be following us there. Hit subscribe on your Apple or Spotify podcast. And also, if you're digging what we're saying, we would love if you could leave us a review. We really, really appreciate getting your DMs. That is the best way to reach us at this point is like submitting your stories, feedback or things you want to hear more about on Instagram. That's where we're soliciting your feedback. But if you could also leave us a review if you're really enjoying what you're hearing, if we're giving great advice or you just really think we're hilarious and you want to share that with us. We would love if you could tell us on Instagram and also leave a review for the public so that other people know as well because that's how more people can hear us. Yes, all of those things. And then if you want to reach out to us privately, away from the podcast or you want to talk to one of us directly because typically it's Alex but it's not – sometimes it is me on the calligrapher or the podcast Instagram – But if you want to reach out to us, I am again at Cat Lauren Calligraphy and Alex's. Signs of Our Lives is my Instagram. So you can talk to me on there. But thanks for keeping up! We so enjoy talking to you guys on the gram and can't wait for more. Happy new year! Bye!