The Freelance Issue No.21 // Should you ever work for free?
You know the feeling of just having started out your creative career or just the feeling that it would be a cool thing to help somebody else who is just starting out on his or her creative path? And then the question pops up if you should ever work for somebody for free? If you are at the beginning, you might think it is beneficial for your exposure. If someone else is just starting out and likes your work, you think you are doing something cool and supportive to do your work for ‘free’.
I have had many conversations with my designer friend Alejandra about working for free and in the end we both agreed that it just ain’t worth it. I mean let’s get real here, ‘exposure’ won’t pay my rent, heating, electricity, health insurance, food and it also won’t buy me a warm coat for the cold winter months. Helping somebody out who is in the beginning stage and thinking you are doing yourself a good thing with that, is also wrong because like the thing with exposure, it won’t pay you all the things you have to pay each month and that clearly is a lot unless you are living with your parents or have a rich spouse who brings in a good income each month, so it does not matter if you make money or not.
If you want to spread your work for ‘exposure’, it is better do personal projects you are really passionate about because when you are sharing those on your blog, social media and so on you also get the ‘exposure’ that people who want us to work for them for free always want to make us believe that this is why we are doing the ‘free work’ for them.
People just starting out who can’t afford a professional can still find good solutions buying cheaper options through premade design solutions. They exist, many of them look good and are fine for the beginning.
Working for ‘free’ only devaluates your work and the value of your work in my opinion. Working for ‘free’ means that you don’t see the value in charging good prices for your work and that in the end is destroying the whole creative market when people offer their amazing skills for ‘free’ or for dumping prices. It is not free because it costs the one who is working for free pride, dignity and time that could have actually been invested into projects and products that actually bring money in.
Besides that I had so many jobs where I was underpaid and overworked and then offering to work for free is even more madness at a new low level. So hell no, you want me to work for you, you have to pay me well. Why do people always assume that it is okay for creatives to work for free? Only because we usually really love the kind of work we do? On the other hand I also don’t walk into a bar and expect to get my food and drinks for free even though the owner who opened that place is probably pretty passionate about his own bar or café as well. But that person also has to make money in order to keep the whole business model running and that is the same thing for us creatives.