When Is It Okay To Work For Free?

Find out when you should take up unpaid projects.

 
When Is It Okay To Work For Free?
Image Credit: Pixabay

We live in a greedy, unfair, and miser world. So, you have to be very careful if you have chosen to be a creative professional. As a creative professional, you will come across endless offers of unpaid projects. You will, every now and then, be approached by people who want you to work for free. Most of them offer the infamous intangible word in return called ‘exposure’. In all honesty, your profession will demand you to take up few of these offers. Yes, you will sometimes have to work for free. But, how do we distinguish between genuinely beneficial offers and the ones which are simply waste of time? When is it okay to work for free? Let’s find out.

Demonstrating Your Ability

Exhibit your skill set.
Exhibit your skill set.

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Demonstrating your skill set without any charge is not same as working for free. When you are starting off your freelancing/agency career, it will be essential for you to demonstrate some ability (especially if you do not have a portfolio). Although sometimes the client requires you to do a sample job for free even after looking at your portfolio. In such cases, you will have to be smart and look out that you do not end up finishing a one time job. That will be of no use to you. For recurring work, you can consider doing a small assignment for free as a demonstration of your ability. Think of as an opportunity that will eventually lead into paid partnerships.

Opportunities That Promote You/Your Brand

Branding and Networking are the key in freelancing.
Branding and Networking are the key in freelancing.

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Think Long term! Once in a while, you will be presented with opportunities that may not have any monetary rewards but have a huge chance of helping you promote yourself. Always take up such projects because well, networking zindabad! The more you network, the more projects you get. And you know how important the rotation of projects is in a Freelancing career. Also, always consider the ratio of ‘return on time invested’.

Legitimate Exposure

Read the contract thoroughly.
Read the contract thoroughly.

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The word ‘exposure’ has been infinitely misused by people to exploit freelancers. Do not get misguided. Look for genuine exposure and real life experiences. Do enough research and ask relevant questions. Calculate how many people will your work be exposed to? Analyze whether it is worth your time and efforts. If it is actually legit exposure and you are sure to gain more work as a result of this free gig, GO FOR IT!

For A Cause

Do not hesitate in volunteering for something you believe in.
Do not hesitate in volunteering for something you believe in.

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It is not always about what you get in return. Sometimes, it is purely about giving. If a charity organization or a NGO needs your assistance, try to take out some time and help. But again, there are limits to how much you can give. Make sure it does not come in the way of your career.

And always remember, working for free is a very rare exception. You just have to make sure that exception is worth your time and efforts. That’s it. Now you know!