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Should I ever work for Free?

Every so often a freelancer will contact me with a tough question: is it okay to work for free? Believe it or not, I also receive inquiries from companies and webmasters that want me to work free of charge for a specific period of time. While there are two sides of this story, it is important for you to use your own common sense when making a decision.

It is not difficult to see the downside of working for free. You are spending a lot of your time and not getting compensated for it. Instead, you are making money for somebody else. If you look at it from this point of view, it goes without saying that working for free is a bad idea.

Additionally, when you work for free you will have a more difficult time getting that “client” to pay you in the future. After all, they already know you can do the job without charging. For this reason, they may find it difficult to justify paying your rates when the time comes.

When does the free agreement end? This is something else you have to consider. If you do decide to work for free, you need to have an agreement in place. How long will you do this for? Is there a chance to make real money when the initial time expires? The last thing you want is to provide free services for an indefinite period of time.

What about the benefits? For one, you can build up a nice portfolio. Over the years, I have found this to be the number one reason why some freelancers will offer to work without pay. Although you have to be careful of the arrangement that you agree to, being able to collect some clips and work experience is a definite benefit.

Along with the above, you can also forge some great relationships. But again, make sure the setup is mutually beneficial. It is not in your best interest to work hard, without pay, just to make somebody else money. You have to benefit in some way, shape, or form.

It is impossible for me to say that you should or should not work for free. Instead, you need to consider your situation and decide on a case-by-case basis.

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2 Comments »Freelance WritingMay 5th, 2010

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