Why ‘Working For Free’ Isn’t Always About Money | by Ingelise de Vries | Oct, 2021

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There are some good reasons not to charge them all


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In our line of work – being creative and independent – there is one golden rule: Never work for free. I agree. Never work for free. When you do, people will take advantage of you and you ruin opportunities to earn a decent living for your creative friends. Not a very nice thing to do.

One of my favorite comparisons is your local bakery. You stand in line, ready to order a loaf of bread. The baker tells you that the loaf costs about three dollars. “Well,” you reply. “I’ll tell everyone your bread is amazing! So that makes us equal, right?” Of course, the baker is not going to accept that. Just like you should not get a cool job offer just for the ‘exposure’ or ‘nice network’.

Working or being free – especially as a freelance creator – is a terrible thing to do. But in my humble opinion, that does not always mean that you should charge everyone your top commission.

In fact, I believe that sometimes, it’s even okay not to charge anyone at all. As long as it does not become a habit. There are situations where, literally, you work for free. But you are not really working for free. Because it’s not always about money.

There are certain situations where someone cannot pay your fee. Even when you take some of your price, you will offer a discount. I’m not talking about big business here, I’m talking about honest and hardworking people who for some reason can not pay you enough. Or at least.

That does not mean you should just build a website for free, write their business story or create free images. But you can invest some time in them. By providing the right contacts, helping them find tools to do it themselves or check out their business proposal.

As long as you truly believe they are real, it’s worth your time. You will feel if it is someone who wants to take advantage of you or if it is the unique talent that you can hire once everyone is settled. Or maybe one day they will even hire you.

My rule of thumb: This should be the neighbor thing to do. As if you do not mind making some groceries for the old couple on your block or helping a friend move. Yes, it saves your time and energy but they are so grateful, it’s definitely worth it.

Oh, and never offer a discount to a company that you suspect will be able to pay your regular commission. They are usually the most horrible and demanding customers. Just go through and find another customer. Too bad for your time. And money.

Sounds selfish, right? This is to compensate for the previous reason, I guess. Sometimes there are job opportunities that will not get you where you want to be right away or make you rich. It’s okay to spend time on that too, even for free. As long as you do not make it a habit. It could again be something you truly believe in or something you will benefit from in the future.

Make sure you are not exploited. It should be exceptional and not something you do all the time. This could be because it offers you a connection you need in the future or it’s for an organization in the field you want to work for in the future, but it’s hard to get into.

Always make sure to get something out of this kind of opportunity. Again, do not waste your time if you do not get something out of it, in terms of work.

Or something that gives you energy. Working as an independent creative is amazing. really amazing. You can do what you love most, every day, your whole life! I hope so, at least.

That means there are projects of passion. You and some friends or certain organizations just enjoy. Trying to invent something. Trying to make the world a better and more enjoyable place. It probably does not make you rich, but it’s fun.

Working for free is not always a bad thing – but you really need to think about it. It’s okay not to back everyone up but to think about the consequences. Does the person you are helping really get anything out of it? Do you really get anything out of it? Is this a real opportunity or not?

What happens when you work for free for this person? Will they tell the world how cheap you are or will they let the world believe they did the work themselves? And will the result be that the world will think that your profession is not worth a decent price?

Or will both you and this customer really get something out of it? And can you look at yourself in the mirror, knowing you did the right thing?

Make sure people do not take advantage of you. Trust your senses, your intuition, your knowledge of people. By now, you probably know when someone has bad intentions. And remember that it’s okay if you fall for an opportunity of someone who used you. As long as you learn from it.

The classes may not pay your rent, but they are sure to be damn valuable. From time to time. Do not let this happen again.

And about the rest? Just send an invoice to the people who hired you. You deserve to be paid for what you do best. You have made your customers better, now is the time for them to give you what you deserve.



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