CSAT Podcast 007: Should You Ever Work For Free?
Creatives like photographers, designers, writer and artists are approached sometimes to do free work or work in exchange for exposure.
This is a very important and controversial topic in the Creative Community. I feel that there are situations where it is appropriate, but I think that in most situations it should be the Creator who initiates it. I think that when companies ask for free work they are not valuing Creatives appropriately if they don’t find a meaningful way to compensate them.
When you’re just starting out as a creative you may be tempted to offer you work for free to get your feet wet, build your body of work and prove your value. The problem is that sometimes this leads to people taking advantages of you. Avoid clients who propose this when they engage you for services. It is one thing for you to offer your services for free, it is another for them to ask. Bartering, or trading is an exception to this as they are not asking for something in exchange for nothing…
When Is It Okay To Do Free Work?
If you are going to work for free, the first people you should offer this to are friends, family and people who have already invested in you and supported you. It is a great way to say thank you, know that they will appreciate what you’re doing and it is a good way to have a positive client experience and develop good/positive relationship habits.
Sometimes it’s okay to do it because you want to help someone that you know is going to do something positive in the world or you just want to make their day, especially a young person. I do this myself from time to time and I feel that it is a great way to invest in someone else. It was done for me at some point in my life, so I feel good paying it forward…
When Is It Not Okay To Do Free Work?
Many people have made the argument that if they want to do work for free and not charge people that is their right and their business. While on some level I can appreciate their argument… it’s a selfish argument. When people do that the are taking money and business away from people that actually need it.
If you love doing something as a hobby, don’t do give it to “clients” that someone else could be charging and appropriate fee to. Give it to a friend or family member or keep it to yourself if you don’t want to charge. You are literally hurting other people by giving it away.
This applies to active services and things that have a cost associated with them.
I give away free content and resources to create value for other people and from a marketing standpoint you could also do this to create interest in your paid offerings. There is nothing wrong with a “Free Sample”.
You also shouldn’t let a client pressure you into doing work for free, or an employer if it is outside of the scope of your job duties or after hours. Many creatives make the mistake of doing side projects or extra work for free, giving up their own time or resources on the behalf of people who are not going to compensate them or appreciate them. Never allow yourself to be bullied in this way or taken advantage of.
Value yourself and respect your work enough to walk away from the situations. If you don’t feel you are in a position to do so, create a scenario where you are next time.
Recommended Reading for Creatives
Knowing how to handle yourself as a creative professional can be rough and while I try to put out as much content as I can, the truth is sometimes I don’t have all the answers… here is some recommended reading from bookshelf. There may be some information or advice in here that will make all the difference for you:
Freelancer’s Bible: http://amzn.to/1M28nne
Creative INC: http://amzn.to/1UV9id3
Show Your Work: http://amzn.to/1Hqtts8
Manage Your Day to Day: http://amzn.to/1UV9EAk
Make Your Mark: http://amzn.to/1SjyCW7
Create Awesome Challenge!
Create Value for Someone Without Them Asking You To! Find someone who you genuinely care about and want to invest in, someone who is doing something worthwhile that you think is Awesome! Offer them your time your talent and you sense of care and consideration. Take a look at the difference it makes in their life and the impact you had. See if you don’t feel more empowered and really think about how being able to have the luxury of making a difference for some made you feel. I honestly have had the experience of it making me appreciate the value of my abilities even more, and helped me be comfortable asking for what I truly believe I’m worth.