Should You Ever Work For Free?

I want to touch on a bit of a hot potato in the freelancing world – working for free – should you ever do it? 

Some freelancers will tell you that it’s a crime to ever work for free. Period.

By working for free, you’re not only undervaluing yourself but also the work of all the other freelancers out there. I get the logic of this, but in reality, I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that, and the answer depends entirely on your own situation.

Should you ever work for free? blog article

The value of the testimonial

If you’re just getting started a freelancing career, I don’t think there’s any harm in offering your services for a low power price, or even for free in exchange for something like a testimonial. 

The reason for this is simple – at this stage of your career, the value of a testimonial is incredibly high to you. You currently have no social proof. So working for free is actually a way to earn a priceless recommendation or vote of confidence from a client.

So I don’t really see this is working for free. The reality is that you are working for something that you really need to build your business. It’s still an exchange of value, it’s just not monetary.

You can also work for friends and family to get some experience, and build your portfolio of work, and again you may not want to charge here.

Be clear on your boundaries, and don’t be afraid to say no if you need to

The last thing you need is to be wasting your precious time at the start of your freelance journey on too many favours and commitments.

Avoid saying yes to work that you know you’re going to resent too.

Of course, as your career grows it’s unlikely you’re going to want to be working for free, or based on future promises of payment.

At this early stage, however, some free work can be a valuable way to get started and get your foot in the freelancing door.

Do you agree or strongly disagree? Let me know below.

If you like this article, you might like these as well:

Books To Help You Cultivate Your Freelance Business
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The Three Key Ingredients For Freelance Success in the Future

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Our very first class for Skillshare – Get Started Freelancing: Build a Sustainable Freelance Business Doing Work You Love – is easy to watch in one sitting, and designed to help you set up a long term, sustainable business doing work that matters to you.

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Until next time,