Screaming Into The Abyss

Why Work For Free?
By Ben Zvan
On December 10, 2008 at 17:11
Photography

Behind the ScenesDavid Hobby over at strobist.com has brought up an interesting and controversial subject: working for free. Go and read it, I'll wait....Yeah, I know it's long, skim it if you have too. I'm pretty patient though, so take your time...

See, that was worth it, right. So now, you're thinking things like this:

"Why would I do work that someone else, including myself, would charge for? I'd essentially be taking money out of their pockets. I could become known as the guy who works for free, which is never good, and if I mention it to professionals in the same field, they'll scoff, try to convince me otherwise, and probably never speak to me again."

But the idea does have it's merits within reason.

David gives several good reasons to work for free and I think they're all valid. I think a little clarification is needed as he doesn't go into the basic economics of the situation.

If, as David suggests, you are the initiator of a project and if your primary goal is creating something for your portfolio and if this project requires outside talent to be completed, then you are in the position of needing to hire that talent. Trading work for work is what economists call the "barter system" and it has been in place since the oldest profession got its start.
Just be careful about what you do for free. As David says, don't give a potential customer a free lunch. I would add that if there's any question make it clear that you normally charge for this and, unless there's another mutually beneficial situation, you would charge them in the future just as you would expect them to charge you if you needed their services.

Provided you stick to the rules, you're unlikely to be in the position of "Hey, what's the deal? Last time you did this for free!"

Edit: Like The Strobist, I'm seeing this from a photographic point of view, if you work in a field where you don't need anyone else's help, your economic mileage may vary.

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