Working for free is a hot topic among freelancers. Some feel that doing free work can increase exposure and open doors to future jobs while others adamantly believe that you should never work for free. Where do I stand?
You should never work for free
Don’t set a precedent that your work has no real-world value.
If you create something for a company, they will make money from your contribution. ‘Experience’ is not compensation. You cannot pay your bills with it.
No matter where you are in your freelancing journey, you know more about your subject matter than someone who has no experience with the job. You should be paid for what you know. If you don’t have real world experience, create some examples for your portfolio. Learn all you can about the work you’re doing.
For example, if you want to be a social media manager, but don’t have any experience doing so, you could do the following:
- Read articles on social media management, posting tactics, and new platforms
- Set up your own personal social media accounts and frequently update
- Attend free or paid webinars
- Take free or paid courses
Doing these things would build your knowledge base and give you some needed experience before you land your first paying client.
When you start out, you should expect to be paid the minimum salary/wage for your work. That may be $10-15 an hour if you are starting out in social media, copywriting, or virtual assistance. Your wage should increase as you get more clients and more experience doing the work. After a year or two, you should raise your fees to $15-20 per hour.
Ultimately, it depends on what you’re comfortable doing, but I have never and would never work for free. That said, there’s one person you should do free work for.
The only free work you should do is for yourself
You should always take the time to invest in yourself and work for free on your own projects. Prioritize your ‘free work’ because it eventually may become something that makes a profit or leads you to paying opportunities.
I do not earn anything writing this blog. Eventually, it could be a money-making venture, but right now it is not. I write here to keep my skills sharp, give clients an idea of my voice and writing style, and to invest in myself. I own this little corner of the internet and I can put whatever I want here. My work is not dictated by a client and I’m not creatively boxed-in by someone else’s vision.
Others ways to work for yourself include:
- Organize your contacts, business ideas, templates, etc.
- Advertise your business
- Network to new clients
- Do self-improvement activities like meditation and exercise
- Take courses and webinars
- Read books and articles
- Practice your skills
Working for free for yourself is the only sure-fire way to know that the time you invested will provide future benefits.
Tell me, is there any reason you would work for free for someone else?