Amy Goldman Koss recently posted a blog rant about being asked to do "favors" for people, many of which seem under- or unappreciated. Amy's rant is a reasonable one. Regardless of one's profession, vocation, avocation, or practice, there are those who will ask for a favor. Something small. Something for which they seem, at the moment, immensely grateful. Amy's observation about why people agree to unpaid gigs rings true: hopefulness that this altruistic gesture will lead to something more, other, and yes, less altruistic.
Recently I was working with an organization to help recruit presenters for a conference. There is an expectation that presenters will do their thing for free because their travel expenses are paid, they don't have to pay registration for the conference, and they get a bit of free publicity. Those are legitimate reasons to expect some people to do a presentation for free. Unless, of course, they are being asked to do something for which they generally get paid.
If a writer, like Amy Goldman Koss, has been asked to write something and present it for a special occasion, she should be paid an honorarium at the very least. I suspect it wouldn't have to be much, but something so she and those like her feel less like a vulgar shill. At the end of her blog she repeats what mothers have been saying to daughters for generations upon generations: "If you give it away for free, it must be worthless."
While I agree with Amy to some extent, experience tells me differently. Yes, there will be situations when you might do something gratis and those who have asked have forgotten or not bothered to be grateful. But there are those who notice and appreciate what you have done. There are those who are inspired by that gesture of kindness, of goodness. You will probably never know who those people are, but that is why you continue to do the "unpaid gigs," though you get increasingly wise and proffer a gentle "No, thank you" to those you think are simply taking advantage of you.
Teachers look for free stuff all of the time to support their students and their students' learning. Classroom teachers readily and willingly spend their own money for their students, but prefer free if they can get quality at the same time. That's one of the reasons that teachers support various networks that enable them to share ideas and resources. . . for free.
I hope Amy continues to do those free events. I hope she is appreciated for those events, introduced, welcomed. I hope she is able to promote herself and her work without feeling quite so icky about it; self-promotion can be hard.
I hope others remember to be appreciative of those who go out of their way to provide something for free, but are generous enough of spirit not to take advantage.
I hope we learn that we cannot owe or be owed a favor; that we learn or remember that a "favor" is a "gracious kindness" and those of us who ask for and are given such behave accordingly.