I’ve long advised extreme caution before taking on any free projects. Why? Because once a producer, or client, knows you are willing to work for free, they will never pay you.
This is especially true for young folks just starting their career. As you will discover, one of the most common phrases used by unscrupulous producers is: “This [free] job will look great on your resume.” Nonsense. If your services are that vital, they can find a way to pay you. I ASSURE you, they are not working for free.
Now, there are exceptions. Short-term internships can be a great way to learn. My suggestion here is that if the internship is three weeks or less, take it. In this situation, the employer expects you to contribute a little and learn a lot. However, if the gig is longer than three weeks, don’t take it. Why? Because no matter how desirable the free gig is, working for free means that you have no way to earn money to pay rent or buy groceries. I don’t know about you, but I find eating to be a habit I am reluctant to break.
Also, if someone needs you that badly for that long, they can find a way to pay you. (Don’t believe the hype. If you expect to earn a living creating media, they you also need to expect to be paid.)
It was with these thoughts in mind that I discovered a chart, created by Jessica Hische, that does a brilliant job of illustrating whether you should take a free job.
A caution, though. The chart contains language that may offend some readers.
Jessica is an amazing graphic artist and lettering expert – jessicahische.is – and I’m deeply grateful that she gave permission for me to share her chart with you.
Start in the middle and work your way out. (Um, just like any other freelance gig.)
And thanks!, Jessica.
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