Should I work for free?
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Martin Dasko of Studenomics shares his suggested framework for working for free in today’s guest post….
I’ve had many friends ask me whether or not they should work for free. There are generally two schools of thought.
Personally, I believe that you should do whatever it takes to get your foot in the door… but once you’re in, don’t get stuck in free forever…
In most areas of freelance work, you really just have to get better so that you can one day charge for your services. The only way to get better is to do. I don’t ask about pay when wrestling because the experience of working with people better than me is more important than negotiating a few bucks.
When I first started writing, I took any opportunity to share my work on another platform. I needed to improve my writing.
When you’re trying to get your foot in the door you can’t be calling the shots. You don’t have any leverage. You don’t have anything to show. You simply have to pay your dues.
We all start at the bottom, unless you have family connections. I had to work my way up and make friends as I went along.
If nobody wants to pay you and you really want to enter a new field, you’re going to have to work for free.
It’s either you work for free to build up your name or you sit at home complaining about how you can’t find work. Your choice.
When you work for free, you have to set some boundaries so that you don’t get taken advantage of for the rest of your career. You don’t want to be a free worker for five years before finding out that you’re not very good at your craft.
There have to be conditions in place. You can simply mention that you would like to discuss your rate once you get better. You can note that your goal is to prove your worth so that they can pay you on future projects. You can also set the condition that they have to promote your services or give you a public stamp of approval.
I always try to get something out of free work. In wrestling, it’s a video tape of the match I can add to my portfolio. With blogging, I try to get a link.
I want you to treat this free work like a college internship. Take it seriously. Use the time to make connections and to become exceptional at what you do.
Every field varies…
What is your work worth? Find out by looking up what your competitors are charging. You obviously won’t be able to charge the top industry rates at the start, but you also shouldn’t sell yourself short by offering the cheapest prices possible either.
Build a portfolio. Find clients willing to promote you..
My friend did video work for cheap for a mutual friend under the condition that whenever he shared the work he would give credit. As a result, the video producer ended up with two clients.
It’s time to start asking for money in exchange for your services. You can start by approaching previous clients, then start charging new folks asking about your services.
Related Reading: How I Turned My Side Job Into a Career
My brother started off as a barber by working on me. He totally ruined my hairstyle – many times. I had a shaved head for a year because he ruined every fade attempt. He eventually got good enough, to the point that I could recommend him to all of my friends. If you don’t get better, nobody will ever want to recommend you.
You’re going to go on an emotional roller coaster as you go from working for free to getting paid. Don’t quit your job because of one good month. Start saving up. Focus on building a client base. Then you can think about quitting your job.
It’s okay to start off by working for free, but you need to set boundaries so that you don’t stay in the freelancing friend zone forever. Go out and get that money.
Martin Dasko is the founder of Studenomics – a blog on killing debt, making money and partying hard.