Should You Work for Free to Get Your Freelance Business Started?

In the early days, I would say yes, definitely be prepared and willing to make a financial loss for the sake of getting things off the ground, building your portfolio, learning your systems and processes, getting some testimonials etc.

However, just because you’re not making money from a specific project, or from doing some work for a friend/contact, it doesn’t mean you need to get nothing directly out of the deal. In fact you can get quite a lot…

When NOT to do unpaid work

Some people may ask you about an unpaid ‘trial’ or similar, so that they can ‘assess the quality of your work’. Don’t do it. Instead, have a website and/or portfolio of example work, have testimonials, and so on, that you can share with them.

Never let people or companies take advantage of you by promising you future work, or referrals or whatever! Stick to your guns. It’s better to lose the potential client than risk wasting your valuable time and energy if nothing comes of it.

Make it official – and worth your while

When providing your skills and time for someone, you should always ask for some value in return. It should be a specific exchange of value, and the agreement should be in writing (and signed if possible…which can be done with an online digital signing service if meeting in person isn’t possible).

A very simple ‘agreement’ document is enough, outlining the terms of the exchange between you.

If the arrangement is between you and a friend or family member, you can keep it less formal of course – maybe in an email – but still make it clear that you expect something in return (for the sake of your business).

An agreement document can include, for example:

  • What exactly you will create or do for the them, and the cash value of this, which you are waiving.
  • The understanding that they will permit you to use any material created for the project as you see fit. Example: for your own marketing, case studies, and so on.
  • That you will be able to supply their direct phone number as a reference for future prospective clients.
  • That they will provide at least one Testimonial, Review or similar, such as a LinkedIn Recommendation.
  • That they will share news of the work you do for them with their network – including a link to your website, or social profile.
  • That they will personally recommend and introduce you to at least one potential client.
  • That this one-time pro bono project will be considered complete when it is delivered, and any further revisions or maintenance will be available at a specified cost.
  • The option to forgo this arrangement and instead, pay the amount in the first bullet point above for your service.

Of course, there is the risk that they might agree to this and not keep to their end of the deal… But either way, the steps above will provide you with more security and less risk of wasting your time and energy than there would have been otherwise.

Why Settle for Your Current Freelancing Income Level When There Are Simple and Effective Ways to Increase It?

Freelancer Income

This free guide will inspire you with lots of practical methods for generating additional income from your existing freelance business. Presented in a concise, quickly digestible, and easy to refer back to format.

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The quality suggestions in the guide cover various areas of your business, with methods pertaining to your fees, your services, different strategies, business practices and more…