When to work for free

Author: Ally Eastman


This has to be one of the most subjective topics in the design world – everyone has different opinions and thoughts towards working for free.

For me – I have experienced times where I have done work for free or for a price lower than I should have been paid. Yes, I have negotiated prices with clients before but sometimes I accept payment much lower than it should be because the work I am doing is an investment.

My first experience of doing free work was during my degree where we had an Internship unit. During this Internship, I worked for a local magazine that had a great cause for the state music industry. What I learnt in those 80 Internship hours was highly valuable to the work I do now and I also created a close professional relationship with the manager. I’d consider this to be an investment of my time.

Doing free work can give you leverage for a paying job. This is not always guaranteed but this is something to consider. For example my Internship did not lead to a paying job, but I have heard of many scenarios where people have obtained a paying job through a successful internship.

If your portfolio is weak – consider free work. Another thing to consider is working for a not-for-profit organisation that means something to you; this will make your portfolio more personal and show you are willing to complete free work for a good cause.

There are many other scenarios when doing work for free is a good idea – there are also times where you should not work for free. Of course, as I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, this is completely subjective.

Feel free to leave your opinions or experiences on free work in the comments below.