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Should you work for free

When people talk to me, the question “Should I work for free” is often said using a strange tone that drips with both excitement and uncertainty. The short answer is: of course not.

The long answer is: if ALL of the following is true, working for free can be a good idea:_

– Your time and effort are duly appreciated AND
– It’s fo__r people that are similar_ to the ones you want to get paid by AND
– It’s in the industry you want to get paid by AND
– You have no other, more lucrative way of spending time, AND FINALLY
– It’s the first time you’ve worked with this client

And people

This is because, whether you are new in an area or just find yourself in a corner of the market that is new to you, every project counts.

Your contact list, reference list, confidence, and intuition will get rapidly develop by any project you do, including the free ones. This is what clients talk about when they offer you to work for “experience” or “exposure.”

However, that only works once per client, and only on interesting work that develops you as opposed to mindless or repetitive tasks. 

Just like not every kind of attention is good attention, not all experiences or contacts are worth having. So, if you get the slightest hint that working for free will lead to either burnout, boredom, or continuous exploitation, you have my blessing to opt out and go have some rest instead.

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