I've addressed how to estimate and bill freelance projects. I've talked about the importance of getting paid for your work - because if you don't value your work, monetarily, neither will anyone else. But today I want to talk about when you SHOULD work for free. I get asked by other freelancers all the time about how I deal with "pro-bono" projects.
So here it goes.
Point 1. The only time you should work for "free" is when you can see the value of what you have to gain from the experience.
Here are a few instances where this value might be recognized:
• When you need to build your portfolio: If you're new to your creative endeavor and are building experience it might be worthwhile to work for free (or a very small charge). But if you do this - you better make SURE that project becomes portfolio worthy. Make it clear to your client that in exchange for your service you want them to trust your creative vision and guidance so that you end up with a piece you're proud to show off.
• When you work for trade: I love working for trade and never consider it "free". I like to view trade as an exchange of energy - so it's wise to make sure both parties understand the worth of the services or products being traded so it's a fair deal. It should be obvious but needs to be said: I will not work for trade if the other party doesn't have services or products of value to me.
• Working for charity: I've been asked to do pro-bono work for charities work a lot. I only say yes when the charity asking is meaningful to me - I get value from feeling like I was able to contribute to a good cause. If you accept pro-bono work and become resentful about it only creates bad karma for you and them. You do not have to say yes to every charity that comes knocking at your door just because they're a charity.
• You owe someone a favor: I've been blessed with lots of generosity from friends within my industry. Vendors and other experts who have gifted me with knowledge and goods. When they ask for a design favor I happily return it.
• Working for friends & family: This one is probably the trickiest. When it comes to wedding invitations or baby announcements I almost always say yes (or offer before they even ask) if I have the time. It's hard to say "no" to family & friends but the times I do they always seem to understand.
And that brings us to point #2.
Point 2. - Always make sure whoever is receiving your services for free knows what your worth in dollar value.
This might mean sending your charity or friend an invoice with the dollar amount of your services - but with a $0 balance at the bottom. You might even include a note saying "Happy Birthday!" even if it's nowhere near their birthday. This way they know it's kind of a special, rare thing that you're not willing to do all the time. (But don't do this if it really is a birthday / wedding / baby gift - that would be awkward).
I just want to leave you with one final thought when it comes to working for free and saying "no." If someone loves your work and services and wants to hire you but doesn't have the money to pay for your services then they are probably not a good fit for you. Just because they really like you and you really like your job doesn't mean you have to work for them for free.
What's your stance on working for free? Do you have a hard time saying no? When do you say yes?
P.S. I love Jessica Hische's Should I Work For Free flowchart.
J & K started this blog project to document the remodel of their 1929 historical home in the heart of Oklahoma City. It has now turned into a documentation of life, food, fashion, freelance, inspiration, design, adventures and details around the J & K house.
Kathleen works as an award-winning brand consultant and designer specializing in small business branding at Braid Creative & Consulting. Jeremy is a software engineer and is the left-brain to Kathleen’s right.
You can contact Kathleen at
jeremyandkathleen (at) gmail (dot) com.
All photos and graphics by Kathleen unless otherwise stated. Feel free to use them with permission or credit.
Anatomy of an Outfit
Sometimes I like to get dressed and take pictures of myself. For all of my outfit posts click here.
Freelance Matters: A series about how I tackle freelance issues such as estimating, billing, to-do lists and how to fire a client.
Trekking to Everest
In October 2010 Jeremy and I trekked through the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp. It completely changed my life. Read about the entire adventure, day-by-day, here.
Braid is a creative & consulting business I own with my sister. We do branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. On the Braid blog I share branding adventures, how-to articles and advice on the creative process. If you need a little brand therapy of your own visit Braid or subscribe to the Braid blog RSS feed here.
What We Eat
We like to eat really good food - at least 3 times a day. Sometimes I blog about it - click here for recipes and yummy ideas.
J & K: Blog Archive
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Business Time
- Alt: The People
- Alt: Round Table
- Are you a ... Blogger?
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Limbo
- Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup
- The Traveler
- Alt Summit
- Eff DIY
- A Braid Update
- Why Mister Scooty Boots Is On My Sh*t List. Again....
- Anatomy of an Outfit: A Mish Mash
- Freelance Matters | When To Work For Free
- Tea and Meditation
- Girl Crush: Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley
- ▼ January (16)
- ► 2011 (257)
- ► 2010 (387)
- ► 2009 (406)
- Eva Black | Spaces
- Emma Dime
- Life as an Artistpreneur
- Jane Reaction
- Ink & Letters
- Meg Biram | The Edit
- Sarah Von Bargen's Small Biz Blog
- Design Crush
- The Equals Record
- Emmarie Designs
- Rory Gordon
- Yellow Brick Home
- The Creatives Project
- Silly Grrl
- Photographers Skeen
- The Clothes Make the Girl
- Bringing Design Home
- Pip & Estella
- A Practical Wedding
- Kind of a Sideshow
- Sandra Juto
- Old Sweet Song
- Rambling Renovators
- Brooklyn Bride
- Design Crush
- Experiment in Poverty
- The Jealous Curator
- Making it Lovely
- Dressing on the Side
- The Oklahoman
- Young House Love
- Oh So Beautiful Paper
- A Cup of Jo
- Brooklyn Limestone
- Glamour Weddings