LAST month I received a link to join a WhatsApp group with one simple question; are you tired of being asked to work for free?

I received this invitation in the same week that I had been asked to speak at an event in Glasgow, costing £100 per person to attend, for no fee. This wasn’t a coincidence. It is a weekly occurrence as a community organiser, freelancer and activist which is why Gabby Edlin and Seyi Akiwowo started connecting people via WhatsApp.

It appears to have either become the norm, or perhaps it has always been the norm, to ask people to share their knowledge, skills and experience for free or in return for “exposure”. A strange request given that without already holding a degree of exposure we would not be on their radar to approach.

The request usually goes something along the lines of this; “We’d love to share your amazing work in your field with our event attendees and think it would be a great way for you to showcase your work/your organisation.”

More often than not completely avoiding the mention of fees or the reason why it would be of any tangible benefit to the individual giving up their time for the event and its preparation. A blatant disregard of the persons time equalling money and as Anna Whitehouse, AKA MotherPukka recently put it “If I do a job in 30 minutes, it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do it in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.”

There are of course exceptions to this. Be it a charity approach, working with students and young people or simply a desire to be involved with the proposed event or activity.

Every freelancer or activist I know gives free time to projects that do not have the budget for them. But if you are not a charity and if your event is ticketed, sponsored and/or funded then your speakers, panellists and experts should be too.

Prior to being a member of the very aptly named group, FU PAY M£, I may have sent an apologetic response to the aforementioned request. I may have even convinced myself that exposure and the opportunity to make connections with a new audience was enough.

However, in doing so I would not only be lying to myself but I would also be conforming to a system that prevents the systemic legislative change that is required to address pay disparity and equalise it. Only last year, women in Glasgow took part in what is believed to have been the UK’s biggest-ever equal pay strike and they won.

What damage do we do to those successes if we refuse to value our time and open up about money and fees?

Oftentimes I take the time to respond in full to these requests, to explain why the request is not good enough and how best to approach it in the future. Starting with the very simple explanation that Time = Money and progressing to how expecting your speakers to work for free results in audiences only hearing from people from a particular socio-economic background; one that is privileged enough to be able to give up their time in exchange for no money.

In the short time that I’ve been part of a group of women and non-binary people from all over the UK I’ve learned that Glasgow, along with most other cities, has a long way to go in terms of offering fair pay to people; especially when it comes to women, non-binary people, people of colour and other marginalised groups. We need individuals and organisations from across all sectors to openly discuss money, pay and opportunities before change will happen. And we need to get comfortable saying no or asking for what we deserve. We need to value our time, our organisations time and our hard-earned experience in the same way those asking us to work for free do theirs.

Whilst the FU PAY M£ WhatsApp group has been endlessly pinging notifications to and from people all over the UK, those within the group have been taking whatever steps they can to create spaces that people can share experiences and knowledge. There is now a Facebook group of the same name, a website – – and people across all platforms have started sharing stories of their successes and frustrations in engaging people in conversations about valuing their time and experience.