This is the thing. If someone has the ability and will to pay for creative work, then they can (and will) from day one. I've yet to find a client that respects the creative work who is willing to pay too little or not at all. The people who don't pay aren't worth anyones time, and are going to expect the world from you.
There are couple of exceptions to this rule:
- A school or fresh-out-of-school internship program at a big-time company. A lot of my friends worked for The Daily Show in NY for 2 nights a week for 6 weeks. This gave them school credit, helped them make connections, and showed them what working on a real live set was like. However, I don't see why The Daily Show couldn't pay these interns as well. Even at $15.00/hour, that's pocket change. It's just because they can pay people nothing, so they do. FYI, none of them now work for The Daily Show.
This is much different than a 30 year old making a documentary with "no budget" and not paying the crew. The likelihood that you are (1) going to meet someone valuable on set (2) work with the guy again when he's rich and famous or (3) get any experience that you wouldn't have gotten out of your student projects is slim to none.
In a career sense, paying someone $15/hour isn't that much. If you are attempting to do a trial run with someone, you should have them work 1 or 2 days (8-16 hours) per week. You should be able to determine if they are a worthwhile addition to your team in a month, or maximum 8 days. 64$15=$960. That's nothing in the grand scheme of a business. Thats like half of the CEO's desk chair. That's less than their monthly electricity bill.
In a freelance / contract sense, if you are committed to having a new website, a new marketing campaign, a couple new homepage banners, then you should pay for it. If you get it for free, you aren't ready to commit to that decision. Whenever you aren't paying for someone's time, there is no reason for you to do your job properly the first time around.
For example, when I was just starting out, I agreed to design a menu for a friend of a friend for free. They gave me the PDF of their old menu, said they needed these new menu items and explained what they hated about the menu and sent me on my way.
I redesigned it and, even looking at it 5 years later, it wasn't half bad. But you know what happened? The client took 2 weeks to respond to me and then sent me a Word Document with the actual new menu / menu item breakdowns. So I re-did the whole thing, essentially from scratch. If this was a real client of mine, that would have been a change order and I would have re-quoted for the changes due to lack of organization on their part. For that reason, I rarely have big things like that change today and if they do change, they pay. This makes clients get their shit together before* handing shit off to me...usually.
I'll say this again and again, but the people who are willing to pay upfront are the best clients. They know what they want, they know it costs money to get it, and they are willing to make money not an issue so that you can be creative and do your job. The ones who negotiate incessantly, who don't want to pay, who take 3 weeks to get you a check will always make your life more difficult and the money will not be worth it.