At some point in every freelancer’s life, there has been one time when instead of money, things like exposure, reference, network, or connections have been offered as payment. If this is you, then this article might be of help. As a freelancer, some people automatically presume you are not experienced. Others drastically undermine your work like what you do has no value while the rest simply love to take freelancers for granted. But at the same time, you might not be able to reject all free jobs especially if you need to impress and retain clients. This article will show you when and when not to do free jobs so that you can make ends meet.
Working for free: What does it mean?
The main catch when clients ask to work for free is to ‘test’ your abilities, connect you to a bigger audience, so you can add more to your portfolio, or so they can expose your talents. Either way, you shouldn’t fall for these things if it is not worth it. Even if you don’t spend money on your work (which is usually not possible), you spend time and that gives the job some form of value. So the goal and reward for every work should either be paid in form of money or actual exposure.
So what does real exposure mean? If your work is not in front of a lot of eyeballs and potential clients (with your name published), then it is not exposed. An exposure should allow you to become better, meet potential clients, and add to your resume. There are a few things to check for when working for free. Some of them include:
- Prospective clients should be able to see your work and know you are the genius behind it.
- You have the opportunity to land some deals.
- The job or gig should look good if it’s put on your resume.
- You can add the job to your portfolio.
- You are learning new skills
- The client you are working for (the free job) is either popular, has a lot of connections, or has the platform to truly ‘expose’ you.
However, there are some times that the client visibly has all these characteristics but at the end of the day, you’ll see that you’ve worked for months with nothing to show for it but more free jobs. So how can you know when to work for free?
When Can You Work For Free?
- You are a newbie: If you are just starting and don’t have a lot of experience, then you can work for free so that you can prove your worth.
- You need to learn more: If you still feel that you need to get better at what you do then working for free might not be such a bad idea. Free jobs give you the room to make mistakes and improve so that you can build a good reputation and get a better experience.
- You want to build your portfolio: If the work will look good on your resume or portfolio then a free job might just be what you need. It will be a unique experience and who knows, you might get more out of it.
- You want to learn from the client: There are cases where you might just want to connect with a person, learn from him, and so on. During these instances, payment is not part of the discussion – kind of.
When You Shouldn’t Work For Free
- The client or the company has a bad history of not paying: I’d when asked around or you see the reviews about the client or company and it seems like no freelancer that got hired eventually started getting paid, then there is no need for you to sacrifice your talent.
- You are already experienced: If you already know what it is you are doing and you already have enough proof on your portfolio then you need to start getting paid.
- It feels like a scam: Another thing to do is trust your gut. If your instincts say it’s a waste of time to work for free at a particular moment, then you are properly right.
- You were approached to work for free: If this is the main target when you were asked to work, then run. Most likely, they want a good job without having to pay for it.
- You are too busy: If you have a lot of things on your plate, then you don’t need to work a free job again.
No one is saying you should put off all free jobs. No, some of them do come in handy and some clients genuinely expose your work and get you better-paid deals. However, there are some cases where you absolutely shouldn’t work for free and hopefully, you’ll be able to tell the difference so you don’t waste your time and skill.