Keep testing but don’t work for free
Testing in the creative industry is as necessary as training for professional athletes: if you do not practice your craft and improve your skills you simply will not win the competition. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, testing is when a creative decides to try out a new technique, update their portfolio or simply expand their network by collaborating with other creatives. It is a vital part of a creative’s life cycle.
There are two types of tests: paid and unpaid. Paid tests are when one creative who wants to develop a concept hires the services of other creatives either by paying for the their times or paying for their travel expenses or materials (makeup and hair products can be very expensive). Unpaid tests are when a group of creatives decide to collaborate with others without getting any type of economical remuneration in exchange for their services. They are commonly called TF (it stands for Time For) meaning that everyone gives their time and materials in exchange for something, usually in the form of images for their portfolios (the most common is TFP, Time For Prints).
When you are testing, you might not be getting paid in money, but you are definitely getting something in exchange for your work. First of all, everyone involved in the test is giving you their valuable time to create something with you. Second of all, they are also investing their materials and skills. And third, you are creating yourself a reputation in the industry by allowing others to have a close look at how you work. Word of mouth is the best marketing.
The key thing to keep in mind is that no one who is testing should make a profit if the rest of the people involved in the test are not profitting as well. For instance, a brand should never ask you to test for their lookbook or their campaign because in the end your work will be used to make them money, which means they are profiting from free labour and that is just unethical.
If you have not tested before or have not tested for a while, I encourage you to test at least two times a year. The creative side of your brain will thank you for it, you will get new images for your portfolio and hopefully you will also meet new and interesting creatives to add to your network.