Should you ever work for free?

October 23, 2018 - 5 min read

We’ve all been approached by people who want free work. Sometimes it’s a family member or friend, but more than often it’s a company.

Companies like Forbes have articles where they point out when you should work for free, and let me tell you, no matter the source, that's bullshit. Let's look at some of the "situations" where Forbes and other pages tell you that trading your time in exchange for nothing it's a good thing.

Your work will get a lot of exposure

Exposure will not pay the bills. If a company is big enough that their exposure will really help you, they can ( and should ) pay you. You don't want to associate with companies that try to cut costs and pay with smoke.

You'll get awesome examples for your portfolio

Of course, the more you work, the bigger your portfolio will be. But more doesn't mean better, and employers don't really care how extensive your portfolio is but if you match their needs for a specific role. Focus on build projects that will help you land contracts with the companies you like.

IRL experience

This is by far, the worst of the list. Clients that pay nothing or peanuts will always be bad clients and do not reflect a healthy relationship with one. Late payments, always adding more things to the list even that was not on the initial draft ( scope creep ), and most important, they do not understand what your value is and will not appreciate your work.


If your network is full of people who only have interns or freelancers working for free, it has no worth and you'll get nothing good out of it. Try to network with people who value their employees ( contractors included ) and treat them with respect.

Transitioning to a pay job is highly likely

That's what internships are for. And even then, the whole idea of people working even longer hours than regular employees just to prove themselves and get a chance to get hired ( surprise here, in most cases, you will not get hired ) it's fucked up. Good companies pay their interns, that's the ones you should work for.

You’ll be doing some good in the world

If you have a full-time job or steady clients and want to spend some time working for a project you really believe in, I could understand it even I do not share that opinion. But even then, working for someone under the premise of "we're going to change the world", it's just a way to get people tricked. Ecosia does a lot of good for the world yet they earn money and pay their employees.