We have all heard it….

“I can send so many referrals your way….”

“I have a huge event coming up, it will be great exposure for you!”

“In exchange for your services, I will provide a link back to your site…”

….and many other promises.  The question is:  Does it ever “pay” to work for “free?”

Short answer:  Probably not.
Long answer:  Here we go….

I personally have worked for free, mainly at the beginning of my career, and once in a while now.  If I provide my services for free now, it is generally for charity and I do it because I want to support them, and I expect nothing in return.  Now, I’m not saying these charities don’t promote me, they do, and they do so beautifully.  I have had my logo included in their brochures, signage and more.  Have I ever gotten a job or booking directly from my participation in their event?  Not to my knowledge, and at least not directly.  I do it because I love the people that run the event, and I support their cause – I’m not doing it for the “exposure,” but since they are offering, of course I will take it.

So let’s talk about businesses that are FOR PROFIT that want you to work for free, is it ever worth it?  That depends… ask yourself these questions:

1).  Do they reach my audience?  The people I want to do business with?

2).  Will I be able to directly promote myself and my work?

3).  Can they provide me with something of value in exchange?

If the answer to all of these question is “NO” – walk away.  If the answer is “yes,” then consider the following:

1).  Can you provide what they are asking for in a way that doesn’t negatively impact your business?  Your time is valuable.

2).  Is there a tangible or hard cost involved?  If so, can they cover it?

Ultimately, I recommend trusting your instincts.  If you don’t feel you are going to benefit from this “exposure,” skip it.  The more you “give away” the less people will value your hard work.  Its nice to help charities, but remember that if you are in business, you aren’t one.

Just because you are a creative, or you provide a service of your time, it doesn’t mean you don’t have groceries to buy and bills to pay.  Also, every time you give your work away, you are affecting the industry as a whole – if there is always someone willing to do it for free, why should anyone pay?

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