Have You Ever Worked For Free?

Have You Ever Worked for Free?

Working for free seems like a bad idea on the surface, but we've given you examples of when it can pay off. If you've ever made the decision to work for free, we want to know about it.

Photo by Dan Moyle.

Specifically, we want to know how you justified your decision, how you felt about it, and how you feel about it now. If you took on free work to get your foot in the door, did it help? Do you have any regrets?

Also, what advice would you give to anyone who may be struggling with the decision? Sound off below.


    I've built websites for free before (I'm a web designer) and it makes me unhappy to think about. Really, the work I was doing deserved payment and the way you interact with clients while designing their website is a back and forth, so every time the client would say things like "I love how the site's looking, but can we change this small detail" I would just think "You're not paying me anything, you don't really have the right to make demands".

    Obviously that's not how web design works and the client should have the right to request changes to their website, but the notion that the person I was working for was perfectly willing to let someone do hard work for them with no type of compensation really sat badly with me. A priority of mine, especially in business, is to try to do what's right by the people you're working with and I feel like working for free - or allowing people to work for you for free - negates that good will.

    I agree mostly, I have done some projects for free. It helps sometimes in the long run for me since I have repeat work from those clients or can gain repeated work for doing small jobs that don't require much time. Sometimes though, the small jobs are a pain in the ass and take more time, but I get the same problem with larger projects. You get promised it's a large project though a quick one to turn around and you end up spending 4 months working on it trying to finalise for construction.

    I guess the moral is, always charge for your work regardless on the size of the job. Make sure to send them a quote too and include a scope of work so you can protect yourself against extra work. For example in your case, perhaps add a clause in that allows 2 design changes free of charge, then ever change after that costs $x?

    Working for free enabled me to get the experience I needed on my own terms. It meant I wasn't tied down to a job description or admin work while getting the privilege of shadowing someone who knew what they were on about. I got to understand the vocation and discern whether I had the right mix of competency, character, chemistry and calling. If you pick the right person then they will give you opportunities to learn, experience and grow.
    I've done jobs before where my primary priority was money. It left me unsatisfied. The only people whose goal it is to make money should be the mint.

    I effectively do occasional work for various Universities around Sydney. However, there are several benefits I derive from this in terms of my professional networks, status and access to university facilities that makes me far more effective in my current role.

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