There comes a point in people’s lives where they are starting out. They need to build their portfolio, contacts or experience. You’d be surprised at how many individuals go through this, whether they are starting your own company, freshly graduated or doing freelance work.
If you fall in this category, then probably have been asked to do free work more than once. Doing free work isn’t a bad thing and can be really beneficial. But you shouldn’t get in the habit of accepting free work as people will then take advantage of you. Let’s get into the politics of free work!
Building experience: If you are just starting out, then you will likely need to build experience. Many places have graduate schemes or entry level positions, but when those are not available, doing free work is the only answer but can be a great experience. You learn to work for a client and you can also use your skills in a real-life situation.
Building Contacts: As well as building experience for your own portfolio or CV, another benefit is building key contacts. If you do a piece of free work for someone then you have that person as a contact and you can build a relationship. They could know other people that you could work for and so on. Like networking, but you are doing something you enjoy instead, because let’s face it, no one really likes networking...!
Gaining Exposure: much like building contacts and being introduced to new people through those contacts, doing free work can help you gain exposure on a larger scale. If you do free work for a big company, then you could get your name across to more people. It will help with your own credibility and you can reach people via other means such social media. In addition,doing free work for a big company means you can ask for something in return. You could ask for more exposure, an ad or use of their contacts.
Charity Work: If a charity has asked for free work and it is a charity you are passionate about, then it is fine to do free work. Even if it isn’t a charity you are 100% passionate about, if you feel like doing the right thing and want to come away helping someone then it is fine to do. Most charities don’t have the budget to pay for additional services as some are non-profit, so helping out a charity to get their message across is great.
You Have the Time: if the free work is for something you feel passionately about, and you have a bit of time to do it, then it is okay to do it. Just make sure it doesn’t take up ALL your time. You still need to focus on the work that pays. But if you have an hour or two spare, then it usually is okay to do free work.
Entice New Customers: to gain new customers, you could offer part of your service free. For example, if you are a coworking space *cough*The Hive*cough*, then you could offer one week or month free, or if you are a design and someone wants businesscards made, you could offer free flier design as well. Doing things like this can help you close the sale. It can helpattract new customers to your business, which can then lead to loyal customers and repeat business.
For Family: I mean this one is a no-brainer! You should always help those who are close to you. If your mum is asking then you shouldn’t say no - she did give birth to you and raise you! If it is a sibling or cousin, then see if you can wrangle something from them as well. A free meal or if they have a service job, then maybe they can help you too!
Free work isn’t all bad, there are definitely beneficial points to it, such as gaining experience and improving skills. If you do decide to take on free work, make sure it is for something you are passionate about, can benefit from AND have the time for. Remember, if you are just starting out, free work is a good starting point to help you become established. Just don’t keep doing it and remember it’s okay to say no (unless your mum asks!)
Here is a fun little website that can help you decide if you should work for free: SHOULD I WORK FOR FREE?
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