Design Teams: Some Things Never Change

Some of my earliest readers might remember one of the first posts I did for this site in 2005 (back then it was still named Inside Scrapbooking), titled All Work And No Pay. It was about the use of – or rather abuse of – design teams as free labor for marketing work by stores and manufacturers.

Well, now a new “employer” has joined the list of those lining up for the free labor of scrapbookers who are anxious to put the moniker “design team member” after their name: blogs.

Yes, I’ve come across several blogs recently that have or are “hiring” themselves design teams (and I’m sure there are probably more that I haven’t come across). The business model of these sites seems to be to promote their owners and to earn ad revenue – a professional blogging model of business. (It’s easy for me to recognize that model because my business is also built around it of course.)

The Effers of course did this quite successfully with their site but they were a group of friends who co-founded a site, not one owner using the free labor of others to promote her site. There is a big difference.

The most recent call I found for a blog design team is still ongoing: Pink Sketches. Based on the owner’s other websites, she seems a master at (self)promotion, running an etsy shop and a website she seems to be trying to commercialize. Which is fine – until you start trying to take advantage of other people’s free labor to do it.

Kelli (nowhere on her public sites does it say what her last name is so I won’t reveal it even though I know it from communicating with her) lists these requirements of the design team members:

  1. Make a layout every week using that weeks sketch
  2. Post links to the site on your own sites
  3. Have a digital camera to take photos of your layouts
  4. Use your own materials for layouts
  5. Participate in designer chats & meetings once a month
  6. Design your own sketch to be used on the site (not a must)

The only mention of any benefits to the design team members is requirement #7: Have a great time and love for scrapbooking and meeting new friends!!

Did I mention that all this work and requirements are for a site that is brand new and hasn’t got a single piece of posted content yet? I contacted the sites owner Kelli to ask if this wasn’t possibly a bit much work to expect of people for a new site with no “cachet”, no return in exposure for the designers.

Her response:

While I understand your issue with the call, the only purpose to my site is for scrapbookers to chat, have fun and share their work. I believe people participate in sketch challenge sites and other design teams to share their layouts and gain exposure. The only reason there are requirements for the team is so I have some kind of organization with the site.

I’m sorry if you think it’s a problem, and I can not speak for other sites, but my site is strictly for having a good time and sharing layouts with others.

The response is great PR work. I wonder what Kelli’s day job is.

Do with this one what you will designers. I guess if any publicity is good publicity, I just did Pink Sketches a huge favor. Whatever…that’s not the point.

Just be aware that there is another type of “employer” out there competing for your free labor. And don’t let the rainbow smiley explanations of “we’re in this for fun” blind you to the fact that a blog format doesn’t mean there isn’t necessarily something more in it for them. Make sure there’s something in it for you too before you give them your efforts.

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