Is It Ever A Good Idea To Work For Free?

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
By Jen Dziura


Should you ever work for free?

NO! ...Except sometimes for nonprofits. And, your friends. And, when you're just starting out. And, when you're building your portfolio. So, maybe you should work for free a little, right?

If you're even considering  working for free, you're probably in a creative profession — writing, filmmaking, fashion, live performance. It's rare that anyone asks a dental hygienist or a bartender to work for free.

Let's get more specific. I believe in contracts. I believe in quantifying everything. I believe that if someone wants you to work for free, you can take charge of the situation and turn it into cash (or something else of value). At the very least, you should know how to say no with your dignity intact and the power dynamic favorable to you.

Behold: a five-step strategy for how to make more than the cash value of your work when working for "free," what to ask for instead of money, and how to turn a non-paying gig into a paying one.