here's a scenario: you get a phone call from a new client and they pitch this amazing photo or video shoot that they want you to style and it sounds AMAZING and SO up your alley and you want to work on it more than anything. all of the ideas are there, all of the people that you want to work with are there, everything is perfect, there's just one thing. they can't pay you.
now, should you be insulted, hang up the phone and say, "NO WAY, how rude" etc etc? maybe. but maybe the better thing to say would be. "oh, okay, i understand. let me think about it and get back to you."
now, think about it. are you a seasoned vet with a super crammed schedule full of shoots? okay. then maybe you turn this one down and give it to an assistant or intern that is working under you. they will appreciate the experience and you will look good to the producer.
are you trying to build your portfolio? are you new to the world of being on set and don't understand how to build your client list? are you trying to grow your connections to the styling world?
the first music video i ever worked on [see below] was for free. it co-starred ron jeremy (no, i was not working on a porn set) and it was for a new production company (Dreambear Productions). they assumed that because i had worked with so many musicians that i knew how to style a music video. now, making clothes for musicians and working on a music video is a completely different world. exiting my studio and walking on a set was a totally different experience. this music video in particular was a great project to work on. i did everything, even if i didn't know how to do it- hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, everything. the first rule of starting a new job is an obvious one- fake it 'til you make it. i brought my intern on and we just had a ball. i dug through my own closet, i asked my friends to borrow things from their closets, i really hustled, and in the end i was happy with the final result.
(looking back now, i would have done a million things differently, but that comes with the territory)
that production company went on to be a successful company that paid me to style tons of videos for years to come. they knew me, they trusted me, and because i was there for them in the beginning, they stuck with me and always gave my name out to other producer friends looking for stylists. getting in with a new company can be a great way to build your portfolio. the lead producer also went on to become one of my best friends.
a lot of designers will only lend their clothes to people that they trust and who have a large client list. i have learned the hard way that it is not always about the quantity of people that you lend your clothes to, but the quality.
always vet people before letting them wear and represent your brand in photos.
this goes the same for when you are trying to get people to lend you their clothes. it's hard to build your list of contacts when you have never worked in this particular industry before.
moral of the story: sometimes the job is worth taking if you are just starting out because i really truly believe that work brings more work. don't let the job cost you any money. make a list of costs that you know you cannot get back (ie: returning clothes). and always make sure that production feeds you. ;) even if its pizza, granola bars and coffee.