Freelancers: should you ever work for free? It’s a difficult question, there’s no doubt about that, and it’s a topic that I’m super passionate about for oh so many reasons. If you checked out my story, you probably have a good idea what this post is about.
I recently received an email asking me to write a considerable piece for free. It referred to a famous influencer who they said wrote for them for free multiple times (which I discovered later was only once and to promote a personal project), and proceeded to make me feel like I was lucky to “get my voice out there” and contribute simply “for the joy of sharing content,” insinuating that contributors more famous than me were doing it, so I should do it for free too. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been approached for something like this. As a freelance writer and photographer, it’s an issue I face on the regular, and it occurred to me that many freelancers out there will or have likely faced the same grueling question:
Should I do this for free?
So, you Google it. Articles pop up like, “Why Writing for Free is Better than Writing for $20,” and, “Why You Need to Write for Free,” and it kills me. Yes, I’ve done it, and I occasionally still do. There’s a time and place for it, but I’m frugal with those I accept. I always ask myself these questions before accepting an unpaid offer:
1) Will it help me explore a new niche I’d otherwise be unable to infiltrate?
2) Would it be a valuable learning opportunity?
3) Will it do wonders for my marketing and outreach?
If I answer yes, I might do it for free. But, it’s important to know your worth! You deserve to be paid for so many reasons. One being that you’re providing a service that will likely benefit the company you’re contributing to and you should be compensated appropriately, just like accountants, hair stylists, social media strategists, and the like are paid for their work. Not only that, but think about your fellow freelancers. They want to make a living
doing what they love too, and if we’re offering our expertise for free, that lowers employer’s payment expectations and hurts others’ chance to do what they love.
Something to think about.