If you work hard enough for long enough and make a name for yourself, no matter how small, there will eventually come a time when people are going to want free work from you. Expect this to happen.
Your job is going to be to determine whether or not this free work benefits you. You already know that it’s going to benefit the person asking—they’re getting free work! But does it benefit you in any way? That’s the question to ask yourself, and in that asking, there are some things to consider.
Is this something you’d usually get paid for? If the answer is “yes”, then you might want to relay that to the person asking for the work.
How long will it take? Time is always a factor, and when you’ve started making a name for yourself, your time may be limited.
Will the time it takes to do the free work impinge on the time it takes to do paying work? There will always be a push-pull dynamic when it comes to free vs paying work. You’re going to have to decide how you manage it.
What happens if you decline the free work? There are always ramifications to anything you do.
What happens if you accept the free work? Here’s where things can start to get tricky.
Sometimes, free work begets free work. One person asks you to do something for free, you accept (maybe against your better judgment), and they tell someone else, showing what you did, and that person asks for free work. Where do you draw the line in the sand, or make caveats as to how long/how much free work you’re going to do? This is something only you can decide.
I’ve done free work in the past. I do free work now, every week at The Proving Grounds. That doesn’t mean I’m looking for or am able to take on more free work. Every once in a while, I have someone email me asking me to look something of theirs over for free.
I generally decline these. It’s simple time management. I have clients who are paying for my attention on their books, and they deserve that fidelity. I may sometimes reduce my rate, depending on circumstances, but I generally won’t work for free. I’m past the need to work for free to establish myself, so free work for me is actually eating into other things I could be spending my time doing.
Ask yourself what you get out of it, and the ramifications associated with doing the work versus not doing the work, and make your decision from there. Only you know what’s right for you.