Seasoned freelancers tend to give the advice that you should never EVER work for free. At first I thought, sure, they’re right. Who wants to do work that they won’t get paid for? Especially if it leads to word getting out that I’m cheap. But then I accidentally undercharged for my time, and I’m glad I did. Here are the 4 reasons why I recommend that you work for free (at least sometimes!).
Number one: It kinda feels good to work for free
This is borderline selfish, but I like to help friends and family out to make myself feel good. I don’t see them as charity cases, I see them as people who have a need that I can fulfill, without cash exchanging hands.
I don’t necessarily spend hours upon extra hours sweating over a project, but if there’s time in my schedule, why not? In the end, the service or product you and I provide has the potential to positively affect lives. Why the heck would we hesitate to put it out there?
Number two: You’re expanding your portfolio
Another purely selfish reason I’ve worked for free or at a discount. I can always use more experience, the more diverse the better. Part of the reason why I used to attend any and all interviews extended. Even if I knew there was zero chance I’d realistically be offered the job.
I enjoy experiences, and I rank that 30 minute interview for a job I *know* I won’t land at the same value as a 30 minute resume review for a colleague. Truly, it’s why I left a structured, rule-driven job. I have the freedom to earn what I want and how I want. Therefore, I maintain the wiggle room to offer select services for free on occasion.
Number three: You’ll earn street cred
I’m no rapper, but a few important people know my name. My reputation for providing valuable content speaks for me. Partly because I have a handful of friends that I helped out before my business sprouted. Now I have regular clients that smother me with praise (it still shocks me every time!).
I don’t have a terribly long list of referrals asking for free services because of word of mouth. Plus, once I do a bit of work for free for clients, they tend to return for paid content later. Kind of like free samples at the grocery store, right?
Number four: You might save yourself from a negative review by tacking on freebies
We’ve all had a client that, for any number of reasons, simply isn’t happy. It could be that she didn’t read the contract thoroughly, if at all. Maybe I overlooked a significant detail in our communication. Maybe she’s hoping to get a fat discount! Either way, going above and beyond in this situation might lessen your monetary gain, but it could help prevent a stressful complaint situation.
Personally, I’m not so worried about negative reviews as my customers’ perceptions of me. I want to do everything in my power to make sure you’re satisfied with your content. Thus, I’ll willingly spend the extra two hours making edits and creating new templates so that your vision is fulfilled (and your stress is relieved!).
Word of caution though: Don’t go crazy!
Eventually, you will have to say no, or simply refrain from offering to work for free. Don’t feel guilty- this is your livelihood, after all. But definitely stay open to the possibility that a new and potentially challenging project could be amazing for improving your creative process. It could even inspire you to develop new products or tools, all thanks to a small initial investment of your time.