Felicity Won't Use Free Labor

Let's recap: So far, Felicity is going to be a first-person narrative told via e-published episodes, with an online component where the audience can influence the next chapters through their membership in an in-story secret organization. While I'm at it, I should surely also make seasonal print editions that incorporate the e-published episodes and some of the content created through the web component. So far, this is all stuff I can do for free (or, since hosting isn't free, for very, very cheap, at least).

The list of things I could get for free don't end there! There are other skills I have and resources I could lobby, too. Let's start with just me: I'm a middling-good but by no means pro-grade illustrator, a skilled copyeditor, a pretty good cook, I have a good sense of pitch but an unexceptional singing voice, I can do light video editing, I have lots and lots of video games. None of this really works for Felicity, though. Well, except for the copyediting part.

For physical resources, I don't have a darkroom, a soundproofed studio, or the like, but I do have access to a pro-grade Korg keyboard, a piano, an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, some microphones, and Garageband. I also happen to have a composer in the family. --And while we're talking about skills in my family: I have a math genius, a teacher, a fair few of programmers, a psychologist, a calligrapher, a musician, a baseball trivia whiz, and much more. If I expand that to my friends, I have an absolutely amazing array of artists, craftspeople, writers, filmmakers, technologists, strategists... basically anything you could possibly need to make the best transmedia structure of all time.

But I'm not going to use any of them for Felicity, because I can't afford to pay them their going rates, and I absolutely refuse to ask my friends to do work for me for free, as "a favor."

Why I'm Against Free Labor

I'm pretty sure I actually could get a lot of talented people on board with Felicity if I tried really hard. I could promise credit, right? Something to boost a portfolio? Something to build out experience? There might even be one or two people out there who would just enjoy the chance to work with me! But just... no. No way. Never going to happen.

That's because I really hate it when someone asks me to do work for free, or just for credit, when they're in a position to make a buck off it. There are times and situations when I will do free work, to be sure -- usually when the amount of work is very small, when the asker is a very close friend or a very good client, and when the project is small and indie or no-budget or otherwise something I'm jonesing to be a part of. 

But that's not what Felicity is; it's not a one-off indie art project. The point of Felicity is to become an ongoing money-making business. It strikes me as singularly unfair and a little déclassé to start my own IP empire (a girl can dream!) on the backs of my beloved friends and colleagues. Even beyond being expoitative, that's no way to build a sustainable business.

There is an alternative, of course. I could offer rev-sharing, for example, or an equity stake. To do that, though, would require a lot of up-front legwork defining that legal relationship, and would cost a lot of time and money doing something that isn't what I want to do. Any added value I could gain from free labor isn't worth either feeling like I'm exploiting people, or wading through a lot of legal paperwork in order to promise somebody they might someday have a share in the hypothetical payoff for a gamble I'm making. 

And finally -- offering equity would make the process of finding and negotiating with potential partners for distribution, syndication, publication, etc. a lot more complicated down the pike, and ideally, that process will be as simple as possible. Everything is easier if I own Felicity by myself, free and clear.

Next time: I start to talk about the tiers I would build out for Felicity, given the right partners.


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