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Should You Work for Free?

Chuck Vosburgh - Friday, January 14, 2011


art: http://jessicahische.com

I found this great chart about working for free at http://www.shouldiworkforfree.com/, and it reminded me of what a problem this is for photographers. There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about working for free, but even after 20+ years and being pretty well established, I still get asked to work for free regularly. The reasoning usually fits into one of three categories:

  • It will give you great exposure
  • It will build your portfolio
  • There will be much more work later

These are all bogus of course, but they do sound convincing when delivered by a slick negotiator. Be strong. Get your own exposure by networking and marketing yourself. Build your portfolio, regardless of the assignments you’re doing. If you network, market, do great work and build a good reputation, you’ll have plenty of work. Remember, your client’s job is to get you to do the most for the least. Your job is to provide a great product for as much as you can get.

I do have a policy for free work, and it’s simple:

  • I’ll do free work for family and close friends. In fact I never charge family and close friends 
  • I’ll do free work IF I have a VERY good reason to

A few thoughts to consider:

  • Your time is limited and has great value
  • What you do has value
  • The fact that your job is enjoyable doesn’t reduce the value of it
  • You can sit at home and not make any money, why work for no money

So, what do you think? How do you handle this issue in your business?


The artist’s web site: http://jessicahische.com

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