There’s a disturbingly large contingent of delusional people that feel that a consultant’s work is automatically “work for hire”. These are the folks that feel they can buy an image for $5 and maintain exclusive rights or pay a web developer $100 and have a web site that is unique, professional, and functional. What’s worse is that they assume that ownership of rights of use (think Creative Commons licenses) means full ownership – there’s a world of difference there, kids!
Personally, I feel the term work for hire is a dirty phrase. The average client has tight budgets and can’t pay for full ownership and exclusivity yet the expectation is that a consultant or freelancer always offers their services as WFH. This is simply not true, nor is it fair. It’s bad business for all parties involved.
So, WTF is “work for hire”?
I’m no lawyer but I’ve dealt with lawyers and legal jargon enough to understand that there are explicit and implicit rules for establishing ownership to intellectual property or content of any sort. “Work for hire” essentially means you work behind the scenes and maintain no rights. When I do work as a ghostwriter, I get paid large sums up-front for the right to give up any credit. This means I can’t make any claims to the work, not even on a resume, unless I keep it anonymous. Ghostwriting is the exception to the rules stated herein and, unless you sign an NDA or NC contract that stipulates ownership explicitly, the rights to content and end products are shared as far as I’m concerned. Am I wrong in thinking this?
Consulting is tricky because there are no real standards for billing rates but pretty much every client will try to underpay if they can get away with it. This is understandable: everyone wants more profits and savings. The typical assumption is that you do the work, then it’s theirs, and you move on until you’re needed again. This is what I call “one and done” work – it’s a real grind and rarely worth the effort unless you’re desperate. These days, I do not bother with work for hire projects because…
- It rarely leads to referrals or future work (unless maybe I beg).
- It is not very profitable, nor is it efficient use of time.
- It pulls me away from things that create long-term value for my brand(s).
I appreciate the fact that everyone is looking for a deal and wants to maximize investments but no one wants to be an indentured servant. Project parameters and boundaries must be set to protect all business interests and circumvent any squabbles. I’m all for giving freebies and value-added services but I’m not going to work for peanuts and neither should you!
…And now for story/rant time with Yogizilla!