Sainsbury's, a company with 23.775 billion in revenue, just ran an advertisement, asking for an artist to work for free. It began:

Sainsbury's are looking for a creative and an ambitious artist to voluntarily refurbish our canteen. Gain particular experience in the creative industry whilst making our community a comfortable area for our employees to escape to. We seek to find a diverse artist, so we encourage individuals from all ethnic backgrounds, genders and age groups to apply.

I am looking for a company worth 150,000,000 to feed all my artist friends in Manchester. Gain particular experience in the grocery industry making our community of underpaid artists (or in your case...completely unpaid!) be able to have a cooked meal. We seek a rich company, so considering your CEO's earn on average 990,000 more than what the average UK artist you seem perfect to apply"

He goes on, but that's enough to get the idea. I don't know anything about Mr. Collins' artwork, but someone should hire him to write snarky replies to stupid company requests.

Now, it looks like this was something done by one store and not sanctioned by corporate, but their request is not at all unusual. As a writer, I get requests all the time to write for exposure. My response? I'm plenty exposed. You wouldn't have found me otherwise.

One of my writer friends, Jane Lebak, introduced me to an Exposure Contract. The idea is that if the great benefits of "working for exposure" don't appear, the person who "hired" you pays up. Cracks me up.

Listen, companies, stop asking people to do things for free. No artist was going to get any exposure by designing an employee break room. You don't ask an accountant to do your taxes for "exposure." Stop asking creative people to do the same. And if I can't convince you that you should do that, on account of you're a nice human being, I'll appeal to your cheap side. Asking for things for free costs you money in the long run.

You earn a bad reputation. How long until Sainsbury's overcomes this bad press? Hopefully a long time. Even though your company isn't huge, if you keep asking for things for free, you're going to get a reputation as a cheapskate.

You show your employees you don't value them. Yes, you are providing paychecks for your employees, so why do they care if your graphic designer is paid for her time? Because, as they see you cutting corners and taking advantage of them, they understand that you would do the same to them if you could. You don't value talent. You won't pay them more for going above and beyond. You are basically a blood sucking leech.

You get what you pay for. While free is good, free is rarely great. Do you want a professional graphic designer? Pay for one. Do you want a professional writer? Hire one. Do you want someone without experience who will work for exposure? Well, you're going to get someone without the requisite experience. While you might get lucky, you might have to pay an actual professional more to correct the errors. Additionally, if you're not paying, you are a low priority for the person.

The solution? Pay for what you need. Always. If you want to give someone a chance "for exposure" hire an intern and pay her a low wage. That's actually giving someone a chance, unlike what Sainsbury's was asking for. Internships are awesome and relatively inexpensive. Professional work, though? That costs money.