Before you consider a client’s request to work for free, consider these 5 reasons why that is a bad idea. As you journey towards building your career or business, you must have come across people asking you to work pro bono/free work. This request usually comes up during the earlier days of our career journey. But can we work for free to grow professionally?
Additionally, these type of request always comes with the assurance of more jobs in the future. And the promise of an attractive portfolio. Therefore, if you consider working without pay, here are five reasons why that might not be the right fit for you.
There are times in every freelancer’s life when we will gladly do work for free. Maybe it’ll look good on our folio, get us a foot in the door of a new industry, or provide us with the kind of work experience we’d like.
But there are times when, despite the fact that you should probably do a free job, the idea doesn’t sit well with you. Whether it’s a friend or an organization that wants you to do work for free, you may be tempted to take the job despite your gut instinct — possibly for the reasons I mentioned above.
A free job is a large commitment, so if you’re not sure you want to do it, don’t. If you still need convincing, consider the following five reasons why you should not undertake that task for free.
Five reasons why people should never work for free.
1. Working for free puts a damper on your profitability
Profitability is one of the primary reasons why people go to work. Therefore, when you work for free, you ultimately diminish your chances of earning a living. And might hurt your reputation in the marketplace since big businesses will not take you seriously regardless of how talented you are.
Working for free or for exposure cannot be used to pay the expenses. Working for free reduces the profitability of your company. Every business spends time on administrative chores that cannot be ascribed to paid employment, but when you start working for free, your unpaid time skyrockets. Because you have more unpaid time in your work week, the price you charge for a project doesn’t work out to nearly as much money per hour of your time.
2. You lose valuable time when you work for free
Because time is money, working for free will not only takes a toll on your skills but your time. Essentially, you trade valuable time for no monetary reward, which you would have alternatively exchanged for a fair price. Therefore, if working for free robs you of extra time, it invariably robs you of more money.
If you agree to do unpaid labor, you’re telling the client that it’s totally fine for your working relationship to continue in the same manner, i.e. for nothing. Which makes negotiating a reasonable price for a future project difficult – after all, why should they pay when they’re already benefiting from the labor of a skilled, dedicated creative with no strings attached?
When you think about it, accepting an unpaid commission is essentially working for free – unless your client is willing to pay for your food, beverages, and overheads.
3. Working for free sets your working charges to zero
You should never work for free if you consider the growth of your venture in the long term. Suppose you start on a project for a client pro bono. Essentially, you shoot yourself in the foot the day you decide to demand wages. As a result, it might not be easy to arrive at an agreed price with the client. The reason is that the client gets comfortable with paying. And maybe unwilling to shift to a payment system.
The most compelling justification for accepting work for free is that it will enhance your portfolio and provide you with valuable exposure. So consider that for a second.
To begin, how do you quantify exposure? When you’re paid in cash, you know how much your project has made, but how do you determine when you’ve gotten enough exposure? Some positive feedback? Increased traffic to your website?
And how are you gaining from it? Will you continue to do unpaid work? Can you cash that exposure in order to pay your rent, bills, and feed your family? If you seek to pay in ‘exposure,’ I doubt your mortgage provider will be pleased.
4. Exposure cannot be quantified when you work for free
On average, one of the reasons why people accept free work is because they seek exposure. Newbies and entry-level creatives usually fall victim to this mindset. However, the need for experience should not be a reason to work pro bono. An excellent way around this is to charge lower or seek out lower-paying jobs. That way, you can build your profile, and as your expertise grows, you can begin to set higher. It gives you the benefit of adding more value to your work. And positions you for attracting more prominent clients as you grow.
5. A lack of boundaries devalue your work
When you take on free work, there is always a tendency to be overburdened with more work by the person offering. The reason is that there are no clearly defined boundaries because the work has no predetermined budget. As a result, your offer might begin demanding and expecting more outcomes than you can deliver since there is no accountability. Similarly, an appointment for free could make the prospective client lose value for your work.
When to put a stop to free work request.
There are always two sides to a coin. As a result, there are some rare occasions when it is okay to perform free tasks. However, the accepting to work for free should be within the confines of clearly set boundaries. Below are a few exceptions for performing pro bono:
A volunteer or charity work
Now and then, there is a call to charity, fundraising, perhaps to help the needy or to participate in community service. Whatever the case, the general idea is usually to make the world a better place by showing a little kindness. That said, it is okay to work for free when it concerns an act of service for the greater good.
Very close family and friends
We sometimes have to perform free tasks for our closest family members and friends. However, it would help if you were careful in this regard. Some family members and friends are professional guilt trippers and can use emotional blackmail to tie you down. If you are interested in advancing your professional and financial wellbeing, you should keep that in mind.
Authentic career exposure
There is some free work you can do to gain authentic career and professional exposure. In which case, it is okay to work for free. A typical example is guest posting on a reputable blog or podcast for the exposure. Such pro bono work can shoot your career to the stars by building your portfolio.
How Paystubsnow protects you from working for free
A failed attempt to obtain wages and payment for goods and services automatically is free work. The difference is that you may not have consented to it. Time and speed are valuable assets in the world of entrepreneurs. As a result, you need to invoice your clients quickly while encouraging them to pay outstanding debt. Failure to achieve these invariably puts you in a position where you work for free.
Therefore, with paysubsnow, you can generate online invoices for your clients and paycheck stubs for your workers. Other valuable documents available are 1099 and w-2 forms. And these documents go straight to your email after generating them.
Should You Ever Volunteer?
Working in a creative field is essentially the same as working in any other field. You wouldn’t expect an electrician to replace your wiring without payment, and you wouldn’t expect a tailor to take up your trousers without payment, so you should never undertake a creative and fun job without expecting to be paid.
Should you, or shouldn’t you?
Every rule has an exception, and this one is no different. As long as you are clear about the work’s boundaries before beginning and stick to your guns, you may want to consider accepting unpaid employment for the following:
- Close friends and relatives, but beware of freeloaders and emotional guilt-trips; remember, you have bills to pay.
- Volunteering and charitable service Volunteering to do some work for a charity can be just as rewarding as fundraising, and if you choose wisely, you may be able to work for free on something about which you are particularly enthusiastic.
- Work that could lead to significant exposure. As a creative worker, you must constantly build your name and brand, so you may opt to pitch an unpaid project, such as a guest post on a reputable site with a large following, to gain visibility for your brand. That’s fine if it’s on your terms and you’ve taken a calculated risk for your advantage.
How to tell someone you don’t work for free?
Getting to tell someone that you don’t work for free is probably one of the most challenging tasks you will face. However, the key to it is to understand the productivity hack of learning how to say “NO.” when turning down work for free requests; it is essential to do it as politely and cautiously as possible. The goal is to earn your freedom and respect without hurting the person as much. An example of a diplomatic phrase for turning down pro bono work is but not limited to: “I’m sorry, there is so much going on at the moment, perhaps another time.”
What are the benefits of working for free?
In the context of the few reversals to working for free, some benefits of doing free work include but are not limited to: building a networking opportunity, enhancing your career skills, it could be a chance to market yourself and what you have to offer to others, working on your passion.
How to stop working for free?
An exception is when free work is part of a career or professional rite of passage like an internship or industrial training. Then you may have to decide and take steps to not work for free consciously. To achieve this would mean to begin setting boundaries based on your worth, set your terms with new clients and projects, cautiously enlighten existing clients on your decision to demand payment, be prepared to lose some clients in the process.