After finishing my third and final year at university studying my photography degree, I entered into the world of interning and freelancing to gain experience and start earning money. I ended up interning at two different companies – a fashion brand and a photography agency – and after these ended I decided to really make a go with my freelance work. This is when I got approached by the British ‘celebrity’ in question asking me to help out with photography for their retail company.
At the beginning our working relationship was a good one. I would get contacted when a shoot was needed, they would agree to my fee and to pay for transport and everything seemed to be working fine for a few months.
It must have been three months into working with this person that she offered me a part-time job at the company as a product and website photographer in London. Now, to anyone that has been a freelancer that is music to your ears! Regular work = regular payment, however many red flags started to pop-up as the weeks went on.
I needed the security of legal documentation drawn up so I knew where I stood in terms of payment, my hours and what was expected from me. I expected this to be no problem and an easy process seeing as she had been running the business for quite some time and had other girls employed by her. However after 4 weeks I still hadn’t received any paperwork and the excuses kept coming. I was getting paid however she was asking more and more of me which was not what we originally spoke about. If you know me in person you know I despise confrontation and will avoid situations which could result in a disagreement, so I buried my head.
The final straw for me was when I got completely disrespected and I left the office with my belongings never to return. Alongside taking photographs for the website and products for the company, I had been roped into doing a couple of shoots for the woman in question for her social media. I didn’t particularly mind as these were pretty casual and would take an hour at most. One afternoon I was sent a very blunt email from her telling me to cancel all other shoot plans for the website that day as she needed me to shoot her for a magazine article. I was firstly taken aback at the rude nature of the email and also because this shoot had nothing to do with the company whatsoever. I had two options – do the shoot to add to my portfolio but receive no extra compensation, or say no and stand up for myself as for a shoot like that I would require extra payment and would take a lot of time. I turned the shoot down, told her I couldn’t do it and that did not go down well at all.
I got an instant reply back stating I had to do what she said, I was her employee and what she says goes. Obviously I felt utterly disrespected and furious that this woman thought she owned me! As creatives we sadly get used to people trying to take advantage of our services, and I wasn’t going to let it happen on this occasion. My first reaction was to get teary eyed and not know what to do. I had taken a massive leap in standing up for myself which ultimately ended up with me being at the brunt of angry emails which at the time felt bloody awful, however now I know it was the right thing to do. I snapped my Mac shut with angry tears in my eyes and left the office for good. Seeing as she had never sorted the paper work I had no reason to give any notice.
Me being me, I felt so guilty the day after for just upping and leaving, however I do not accept being spoken to like that, whether you are a ‘celebrity’ or not. That is the day I got my business back-bone and from then on I know my worth, I know how I should be treated and now realise how important it is to not to jump straight in to an opportunity without considering it properly. It is hard to turn down jobs however if it doesn’t suit your ethics or they don’t have the budget you require it is ok to say no.
SUMMARY – Know when to say no and don’t be a bitch as one day someone may write about their experience with you for others to read.