Dear Ben & Frank
What are your opinions on working for ’free’ when you’re first starting out as a designer/illustrator?
Question Submitted by Egg
Ben SaysI did an unpaid internship when I was in school, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career so far. I’ve heard many people who think it’s outrageous to not pay someone for their work, but life isn’t that black and white. I believe some learning opportunities like this are worth working for free for the experience.
When it comes to managing and dealing with your own clients I don’t have as much experience as Frank. I do frequently donate my time to charities and causes I believe in, but I would be hesitant to do anything for a business that I wasn’t being compensated for.
Frank SaysDon’t work for free. Always try get something out of it, otherwise you’ll make yourself out to be of no value. (Which hopefully isn’t true.) This does not necessarily have to be a form of monetary payment though: you can work for trade or services. Typically, if you work hard enough to figure out something, these people can offer you something of value.
I do believe that there are certain situations though where a creative can choose to work for free or pro bono for causes they believe in. Examples would be non-profit organizations and charities. I would just hesitate to do this with any businesses that seek to make money.
Here’s a quick tip: if you’re in initial talks with someone about a project and they say the word
exposure, run for the hills.