Three Creative Ways to Turn Exposure Into Cash

If you've been in the creative field for any length of time, you've surely been approached by someone and been offered the opportunity to work in exchange for “exposure.” In almost every case the query is met with a response that sounds something like, “I can't pay my bills with exposure,” or a clever meme breaking down the investment needed in order to take images in the first place. Before you lose any more sleep about it, let me share with you three ways to turn these types of “opportunities” into cash.

Mailing/Contact Lists

When a company offers an exposure opportunity in exchange for creative work I have found one of the best ways to get something tangible out of the exchange is to ask for access to their mailing list. Now, it's important to make sure that they have a privacy policy that allows them to share the data they collect with vendors that they work with, but it's a great way to potentially reach thousands of people with your offerings. Depending on the type of company and the nature of your project with them, maybe you could send out an email blast showing a behind-the-scenes look at your work with them and a special offer that they can take advantage of. There's a lot of ways to spin it, but gaining access to their mailing lists has real value beyond them reposting or telling people by word of mouth about your work.


Another clever way I've turned exposure opportunities into cash is rolling the work I create with that client into promo materials that I use to market to other companies or people. Remember, just because you are "working for free" doesn't mean that you have to work that way for future clients. I've taken images that I've created in these situations and used it to work out paid opportunities with competitors and other related businesses. In the eyes of your new prospects, you've established some credibility in working with this other company which can often net you a higher paying job than if you were to come in cold turkey. The key here is that you have to go out and market this work. You won't get business just by posting up the images on your website and waiting for it to be discovered. Put in the effort and it will yield results.

Forward Agreements

This idea is so simple. In the event that you can create a recurring work scenario with this potential client, you simply offer to do the work in exchange for exposure on the first go-around with the written understanding that future projects will be done on certain dates at an agreed upon cost. I've used this many times in my headshot and portrait business and the results are powerful. By offering to do the first job at low to no cost, it allows you to start the relationship and show them what you're capable of producing. If they are happy with the work, your next two (or more) projects will already be set at a price that you mutually agree to. You could always roll these opportunities using the repackaging tip to approach other companies and gain even more business.

Final Thoughts

Making money in photography doesn't have to be difficult. Look at every one of these exposure opportunities individually and see if you are able to use these tips to get ahead. Who knows, you may find that there is more money to be made doing these types of projects than if the client actually paid you.

Cover photo by JESHOOTS via Pixabay.

Miguel Quiles's picture

Miguel Quiles is a commercial portrait photographer based out of Orlando, Florida. He's appeared on platforms such as Creative Live, WPPI, CES, Imaging USA & PPE. Miguel is a Sony Artisan Of Imagery and releases educational tutorials and videos on his YouTube channel as well as Sony's Alpha Universe.

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Some good stuff! Thanks for the post.

My pleasure! Hope it helps you make some more money in 2018 :)

This is extremely helpful. Thank you SO much for sharing this information. I've used the "repackaging" technique in the past, but not the other two. I particularly like the "mailing list" strategy, and would have never thought of this extremely clever tactic. Seriously, thank you so much for sharing. This is invaluable info!!!!!!!

My pleasure! Happy to hear that you found the content useful. I have a lot more business related videos hitting my channel every Monday, so be sure to subscribe to the channel for more in the future :)

I definitely will. The business end of art/photography is something I struggle with the most. I have a pretty decent understanding of marketing but actually running a successful business can be super tricky. I think this kind of content is invaluable. Keep it up and thanks for sharing!!

Hey yeah thats cool that E-mail list idea, I like it. E-mail lists are invaluable if used correctly !

Totally agree! The only way they won't be valuable is if you don't currently use them, but I think everyone attempting to pursue photography as a career definitely needs to build one up.

Bugger that, I don't work for free.

Did you watch the video? I'm definitely not encouraging working for free either ;)

Great post!

Thank you!

Heyyy I remember that boutique lol Great advice bro :)

You and I both! haha Thanks for checking it out :)

Nice, Miguel. A timely piece for me. I'm working on two potential business promotional pieces where I can leverage the projects on my site. Overall, great ideas for some of us as amateurs didn't have in mind as we try to build something.

Thank you! Glad to hear that this info can be of use. :)

I'm not so sure that entities with little or no money to pay you will have email lists with quality leads. Surely their ethos with regards to payment and respect will be reflected throughout their entire business model. 'Working' with outfits like that is what kills the creative industry. What is being missed more and more, is simply meeting prospects, making the effort to not only call but to meet, in person. All three points raised, are common sense approaches but all are reflective of what to do when you're being taken advantage of.

While you and I both agree that these are "common sense approaches", the reality is that these days common sense isn't so common. These approaches won't work in every situation, but its definitely something to keep in the back pocket when the time arises.

And nothing "kills the creative industry". The creative industry is simply evolving like everything else. Today faster than ever, that is true, so the importance of flexibility and adaptation.