When starting out a career as a freelancer, exposure is one of the hardest things to acquire. In a profession that relies heavily on a good portfolio to land jobs, newbies looking to establish themselves as credible freelancers often find it hard to break into the market.
Due to this, the temptation to work for free — in order to gain exposure and have the credits to build a portfolio — is prevalent. Many freelancers make the mistake of thinking that working for free in the beginning is beneficial to their careers. This could not be further from the truth.
In this article, we have compiled the 5 reasons why working for free as a freelancer (even if just starting out) can actually be detrimental to your career:
1. People Don’t Value Free Things
Anywhere in the market, if something is free or acquired for cheap, it’s likely of poor quality and little value. As a freelancer, whether it be writing, graphics design, or photography, your service must be seen as something of great market value.
The product of your efforts and time need to justify their price and that wont be easy if you’ve marketed yourself as a newcomer willing to work for free. The idea is to work to get paid and you can only do that if you offer something of value, not by offering freebies.
2. You Might Be Exploited
There are many employers out there who are more than willing to exploit novices with the promise of future jobs and payment. You will end up spending hours and energy into a gig that will end up being either rejected or plagiarized.
You bear the brunt of the costs by working with no pay and the commissioner would have gotten the finished product for free.
3. Your Reputation Suffers
Reputation is just as good as a portfolio when freelancing. When you prove yourself as capable of delivering quality work that justifies payment, your reputation improves.
People will come to know you as the dependable Filipino freelancer you are and will know who to go to when work of your kind is needed. There are very little to no reputational benefits to you by working for free.
As stated above, people don’t associate quality and value with things that are given for free.
4. It’s A Waste Of Time
Productivity and time-management are the name of the game with freelancing. How much time, work, and dedication you put in your chosen field will set you apart from the many others who tried to freelance full-time but failed.
Once you know this, you will understand the value of your work. This is why you should always think twice on spending time on pro bono gigs. This only means you are wasting scarce resources that you can never recover on work with no definite return on investment.
5. Its Just Bad Business
When you begin to freelance you are essentially starting your own micro-business. Businesses operate to generate and maximize profit by marketing and selling products of value.
With freelancing, you are both the owner and employee of this business and what you are selling is your services. If businesses market their products to the masses in order the gain traction in the market and drive up sales, in freelancing you are marketing yourself.
Instead of offering up your services for free in the hopes of future paid work, think more like an entrepreneur and focus your energy on maximizing your time, marketing yourself, and building a good relationship with paying clients. It may take longer but is definitely more rewarding and sustainable.
We hope that this article helped you in learning about the negative impacts of working for free. Freelancing is not an easy thing to do — everyone has different experiences regarding the difficulty of finding your footing in this highly competitive market, and mistakes can be frequent. But with some determination and a good amount of research, you can certainly etch out a great and profitable future for yourself.