Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

Getting asked for free work is very common, especially if you’re just starting out. NEVER do it, read on to know why, it costs you much more than missed income.

In the beginning of my career, I wasn’t super sure of my skills, so I did some work for very cheap to get some pressure off of me.

Now that I’m 8 years into my career, I know I can deliver. However, during my transition from salary job to consulting, I ran into the same type of client I had run into 8 years ago, but this time I could see through their bullshit and knew I had the upper hand.

I’m writing about what I learned from doing projects for way below market rates early on in my career, and how they are an absolute waste of time. They won’t teach you anything and the “exposure” many clients promise is useless and a lie(I put client in italics because real clients pay).

1) They cannot value your time

Since you literally put no worth on your time, neither will your client.

The people that ask for free work are usually one or both of the two:

  • Entitled
  • Broke

A healthy and respectful business owner is rarely entitled to the point of requesting free work, they know skills are worth money, an ROI can be calculated, and that generally you get what you pay for.

However, a broke one will make it a habit to ask for free work. A broke client is in survival mode, probably due to lack of management skills, and completely unable to value his or her own time, let alone yours.

2) They are not going to last long

If a business can’t afford a service they need, they’re not doing very well, any work you do will disappear along with them in a few months, in the case of websites it means one less live site on your portfolio.(this was my biggest pet peeve when I was starting out).

3) They won’t listen to you

Gyms rely on people not showing up to survive, everyone pays $50 per month, but few people actually go, I’m talking out of my ass here, but I’m willing to bet that the most expensive gyms have higher attendance rates, and the cheaper gyms have the highest number of no-shows. So, imagine if the gym was free — no one would bother showing up because they’re not missing out if they do.

This is the same with free work, if your time costs money, they will want to maximize what they get out of you, which creates a challenge and actually gets you thinking. When you don’t charge, they won’t listen to what you say because they feel they can just ask again whenever they feel like.

4) “Exposure” is bullshit

A business that can truly give you exposure should also be able to monetize their own exposure and be able to afford your services, you’re not getting any exposure because they don’t know how to run a business. You may get exposure to their friends — that also don’t know how to run businesses.

TL;DR; Don’t work for free unless it’s a charity/nonprofit.

Strong opinions, loosely held.

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