Common advice given to new freelancers dictates they should never do work for free. Designer Paul Scriven offers a smart counterpoint, suggesting that freelancers should either "work for free or for full price. Never for cheap."
If you do a job for free you can control the expectations of the client. You can tell them what the boundaries are and what they should expect of you. When they aren't paying anything they don't want to overstep those boundaries to piss you off. They are thankful for any work that they can get out of you.
This is why charging for free is a better option than charging cheap because people who pay money have the same expectations no matter what they are paying. If that is going to be the case shouldn't you be rewarded appropriately for the time you are taking?
When you charge a rate that you feel is underpaying you, you become a pain in the arse to the client and yourself. You begin to despise design because it feels like cheap labour. Your creativity suffers along with your work performance. Instead of focusing on the job at hand all you do is worry about the guy down the street making more money than you.
Replace "design" with "freelance work" in the paragraph above and Scriven's advice applies equally to any freelancer, design or not. Whether or not your agree with that advice, let's hear about it in the comments. Photo by kiwanja.