When to Work for Free

by Sean Ross

2 min read

On the surface, the idea of working for free doesn’t seem terribly appealing. After all, who likes putting in all that effort and getting nothing in return? However, working for free can be advantageous or, in some cases, almost necessary. Free work has the potential to improve your long-term career opportunities and net your business cost savings you might not be able to obtain elsewhere.

Getting a Foot in the Door

Whether you’re a college graduate looking to land your first job or a small business trying to land a lucrative contract, making yourself stand out in a crowded field is vital. Offering to help out on a project or provide services for free gives employers and business partners an opportunity to take a risk-free look at what you can offer.

A contract involves a commitment of both time and money. Companies may be reluctant to offer a contract without getting a good sense of what they’re going to get in return. If you offer to work on a project for free and do a good job, it could lead to potentially high-paying jobs, contracts or other gigs down the line.

An Exchange of Services

If you’re considering offering to work for free in hopes of a payoff down the line, odds are you’ll run into someone who’s thinking the same thing. In these types of situations, it may be mutually beneficial to help each other out.

If you offer accounting and bookkeeping services, for example, it might make sense to trade with a business that can offer software or invoicing. Each side finds a solution to one of its problems, which could lead to additional referrals for business in the future.

Charity Work

Beyond the obvious benefits that come from donating your time to a charity, volunteering could expand your network and improve your reputation. Many charities need to fill roles for organizational, marketing and back office operations. If you have a skill to offer in any of these areas, charities would be more than willing to find a match for you.

Charities have deep associations with their communities, and companies often value individuals that contribute to charitable causes. Contributing your time could lead to professional connections with hiring organizations in the area.

Blogging Your Expertise

Writing is a demonstration of knowledge, and blogging can be an easy method to communicate that. You won’t necessarily earn any income from your blog unless you get heavy traffic, but it is a good way to promote your skills and accomplishments to a wide audience.

If you have specialized knowledge in a particular area, you can blog about it and then share your writing on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and even job boards to promote yourself. If you’re looking to freelance or consult, include an area on the blog where people can contact you and mention that you’d be interested in working with them. Include a link to an updated resume.

References & Resources

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