How to understand when you should work for free?

Work for free: hand a on clock with the words time to get paid

Offers to trade a service for experience or exposure rather than payment represent a big dilemma for most people.

Work for free: hand a on clock with the words time to get paid

On the one hand, it took you time, knowledge, and dedication to create and provide a product or a service, so you, justifiably, believe compensation for your work is in order. On the other hand, you are hesitant to openly refuse, as the offer might have some hidden values you don’t want to miss out on.

What if you are a starting-out writer, photographer, marketer, consultant, or another service provider?

The well-known loop called “can’t get a job without experience, can’t get experience without a job” is surely becoming quite frustrating, so you end up feeling stuck, not sure how to move on with your professional ventures.

If all this sounds familiar, here are a few pieces of advice that can help you understand when you should consider working for free. You can also check some of the personal experiences and professional advice regarding working for exposure, to learn how to approach the matter like a pro.

1. The offered work is what you’re passionate about, or for a cause you believe in

Exposure and experience are surely good things, but you are wondering if you are making a good deal if you’re giving up the pay? The easiest way to know this type of agreement can work out well for you is if the offered gig gives you a chance to do something you deeply care about.

More often than not, especially if you are just starting out in your career, the work that gets paid is done for specific purposes and specific clients, and it doesn’t offer a lot of creative freedom. Taking the work that makes your heart race might be a good opportunity for you, even if it’s not paid.

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2. The proposed work will allow you to enrich your resume with some impressive associations

Sometimes, an opportunity to collaborate with renowned companies, institutions, or professionals you admire can really pay off in the long run, even if financial compensation is out of the picture. Adding a few important names to your resume can surely shine it up, especially if they are followed by an eye-catching recommendation of yourself and your work.

3. The offered exposure is clearly stated and defined

When negotiating work that is supposed to be done for exposure, make sure to inquire about the validity of the proposal thoroughly. What sort of exposure will you be provided with after the work is done? Vague, insecure, or incomplete information can be an alarming sign that, perhaps, you should give that opportunity a pass.

On the other hand, if the offer seems solid and the exposure you stand to get is relevant, it wouldn’t be wrong to take the time to consider such a job.

 4. The offered work is giving you a chance to get truly useful and valuable experience

Experienced writers take an example of an aspiring content writer hungry for more, who got an opportunity to write for exposure, but working on complex, meaningful topics and for a wider audience of professionals than he or she usually writes for. According to their professional experiences, opportunities for such exposure can prove to be very beneficial in the long run.

Writing experts on the other hand, point out that, when it comes to contemplating work for exposure, caution is always advised. They suggest young writers to value their time, and carefully assess the proposal before reaching the final decision.

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Raising a matter of unpaid work is a sure way to get everyone in the room on their toes. This is one of the most group-dividing professional questions, and whenever you ask it, you are sure to hear opinions coming from both sides of the fence.

One thing is sure, however: when it comes to working for exposure, make sure to be very careful what you sign up for. Check the advice given above, and you will be able to make an informed decision that will most probably benefit your career.