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Should you ever work for free?

There are a few situations in life where it is completely acceptable to work for free, for everything else, it should be a big no.

A lady working on her PC for her company.

Most people would tend to tell you to never work for free. And in most cases, you shouldn't. If doing something involves your time and effort, it is your right to get paid for it. Many companies, unfortunately, take advantage of those looking for exposure, experience, or knowledge offering them unpaid work. This also includes unpaid or poorly paid internships.

They promise you exposure. They promise you referrals. They promise you future paid work. Most of these promises are never kept. Apart from these situations, it is okay to work for free under the following circumstances -

  • Legitimate Exposure - You need to know how many people will your work be exposed to and how many target customers will be in that audience. With big audiences, organizations or individuals should have the money to pay you for your work. So if they're refusing to pay you for your time, you might want to think twice.

A freelancer working on his presentation.
  • Real-Life Experience - Gaining experience could help you land a job or bigger gigs. This is useful when you want to expand your portfolio. But it's important to set a time limit on how long or how much work you'll do for free. Otherwise, you will end up taking too much of your time doing free work. Remember that your bills still need to be paid.

  • Additions to your Resume - Certain types of work can be a valuable addition to your resume. If it's a well-known company or individual, there's a chance you'll gain credibility that could help you land more lucrative jobs down the road.

  • A cause you believe in - Sometimes working for free is about giving rather than gaining. If there's a charity or organization that could use your assistance, helping out could be time well spent. Set limits on how much volunteer work you do.

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