How To Decide When And When Not To Work For Free

When you’re first starting out and sometimes as and when you’ve been in the game for awhile, you’ll be approached about doing some work and no pay is involved.

Do you do the work and be satisfied with being paid in “exposure?”

Do you respond to the inquiry by sending your rates?

Today’s blog post is for you!

I’ve had my fair share of people that I’ve done uncompensated work for and about half of the time, it has been beneficial to me. Although every experience is a learning experience at some point as you gain expertise, you deserve to be paid. I’m here to tell you that most people will either not have a budget or aren’t looking to pay you and if it’s something you really want to do, deciding how to handle that situation can be confusing. So I put together a list of four things you should consider before responding to their inquiry.

Check them out below.

Who contacted who?

This is my main determining factor in whether or not I’ll do any type of free work. There was a point in time when this didn’t matter to me but then I woke up and realized I didn’t understand my own value – and that’s why asking yourself this question is important. If someone found you out of all the other people in the world with websites and social media pages who also do what you do, that means they thought enough of you to trust you with whatever they need done. In other words, they believe you have a certain level of value or knowledge that they don’t have. Whenever someone approaches me, I always share my rate information unless the project involves community service or I’ve worked with that person before and don’t mind donating my time.

What will it cost you?

Nothing in life is free – everything costs. Either you will pay or they will. If you’ve been approached and no payment has been discussed, then you have to decide if you’re willing to pay the cost of whatever that person needs done. Sometimes all it will take is a few hours of your time. Can you afford to lend that time? Other times it can cost you time, energy and resources. In that case, you’d better be getting paid!

If not cash, what is the benefit?

There are other things that are important in life besides money and sometimes you’ll be offered other things in place of it. For example I’ve often traded services, accepted products or was granted access to an event that I wanted to attend in place of money. Most of the time I’m fine with that unless it costs more than I’m willing to pay like having to buy a new outfit, using a lot of gas to get to the venue, etc. Another benefit besides cash is being able to include something in your portfolio. When I first started blogging and doing PR, I did a lot of free work to build up my credentials with real world examples, leading to paid work with other projects.

What’s your gut feeling about the project and the person inquiring?

I’ve ignored this more times than I care to discuss and trust me, I will NEVER do this again. We all have that internal instinct about a person or a project that sometimes screams that a mess is ahead. Don’t ever ignore that. If your instinct is telling you that someone is just giving you the runaround or trying to smooth talk you, don’t allow them to waste your time or use you for their gain. On the other hand, if you feel like collaborating with the person or brand would benefit you and work in your favor as well, go for it!

Hopefully these tips help you decide when and when not to work for free because I know the struggle of going back and forth about it. Be a good friend and share with someone else who needs the help!

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