When Should You Consider Working For Free?

by Martin

“When we are doing what we love, we don’t care about time. For at least at that moment, time doesn’t exist and we are truly free.” — Marcia Wieder

I want you to make real money. I want to see you increase your savings account, pay down your debt, and live a happier life.

I don’t want you to get taken advantage of. I don’t want you to slave away for hours and months, and not be compensated for it.

This leads into the notion of working for free.

We’ve covered how to make money through freelancing on here. Today we’re going to talk about when it’s actually worth working for free.

When should you consider working for free?

To build up your experience/portfolio.

As a rookie freelancer you have to gain experience and build your portfolio somehow. You can’t always can’t paid while working your way up. You might have sacrifice some time to deliver high quality work for free. The only trick is that you have to be strategic about this so that you don’t get taken advantage of. I don’t want to see you working for free for years.

How do you do free work on this basis?

You have to make it clear that this is temporary and you’re only trying to build yourself up. This is not a permanent status of yours and you’ll be expecting payment in the future if this trial works out.

Most clients will understand. I once hired a writer on a trial basis. They wrote for free for a few weeks until I made the call to hire them.

The end goal here is to build up experience and to have proof for the future. The next time you speak with a potential client you’ll have a strong refer all (hopefully) and samples of your work to show.

I knew a personal trainer that would offer his first training session for free. His goal was to show you what he was capable of. The secondary goal was to meet other potential clients. Gym users would see him in action and start asking questions. It seems to have worked out well. He told me that the trick was to always be helpful to everyone in the gym and to make that first session the best possible.

When you want to work with a very successful person.

A connector or successful person is someone who you might do some free work for because you want to meet them or work with them.

Is there someone that you really want to work with or work for? If there is, you should strongly consider offering them your services for free. This free work will pay dividends in the future when you have this person on your side or apart of your network.

How do you work here for free?

Once again, you need to be upfront with this person. You have to let them know that you want a referral or that you want them to connect you with someone else. No point to beat around the bush. They’ll understand.

Have you ever worked for free? What rules did you set out when working for free?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jerry October 15, 2012 at 10:14 am

I think it depends on the situation. It’s true that working for free could lead to other opportunities as you are able to add that experience to your resume. But, it’s not insurance that you’ll land a better job. You have to be thoughtful and strategic about your choices.

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