One of the more entertaining learning games you can play with children takes place as they begin to understand the concept of money and its associated value. You look at them with a big smile and raised eyebrows as you make them an offer they can’t refuse. “I will give you FIVE of these pennies for your ONE dime!” In most cases, depending on the stage of learning, the child will take you up on your deal, but with reluctance. They know that five is more than one and you seem trustworthy, but something isn’t quite right. As we age, the opportunities that come our way often are not as elementary when they are presented to us, but they mirror many of the same feelings. If you have a particular skill-set and it's marketable, inevitably you will come across those who want to exploit you. While there are many relationships that you will build that will be mutually beneficial, some of them will only appear that way on the surface.
Knowing the difference between a good deal and a bad deal can make or break you in the creative industry. Having someone approach you and ask you to take photos of an event they are doing in return for some exposure, may or may not be a bad deal. If the event is a charity event and its for a company/individual that actually has their own exposure, then it might be worth it. Sometimes you’ve gotta give a little to get a little. If the event is a rapper, making a music video in his mom’s basement to release to his patiently awaiting fan-base of 30, you may want to charge your regular rate. It’s not just about who’s back you scratch. It’s also about who you partner yourself with and how you position yourself in that partnership.
At the end of the day, sometimes giving a freebie to the right person opens a world of doors that you didn’t know were there. Sometimes the tiny old man with the long white beard really does have connections to the movers and shakers at the upcoming music summit. Sometimes, the guy with the thousand-dollar watch that says he wants to manage you, really has no more resources than the hookup he got on the price of his "Rolex". The key is to trust your gut. Most of the time, if it doesn’t feel right, it’s because it’s not right.