Why you should work for free (sometimes)

I’m a big user of LinkedIn, where I enjoy the company of fellow cynics and often tut, frown or even comment on the sermons that are spouted there.

Two in the past week have caught my eye: can you guess or do you not give a damn?

I’ll tell you anyway.

The first is that failure is the best way to success.

The second is never ever work for free.

Point 1: is failure necessary for success?

I am quite binary in my views and I can sort of see the logic in each – as the first set of failings has led me to success, but to be honest, I’d have preferred success without the estate agency I set up with a partner failing, as I still see myself as someone with a keen eye for property and sales. In fact that failure, those connections, those lessons, did lead to my niche of becoming a property writer, and website designer for that industry, having created quite a few online outlets for estate agency.

It’s like working in estate agency, without the crippling portal costs.

Point 2: should you ever work for free?

This one is even foggier for me. I’ve switched camps constantly on the issue since going freelance and I think to be honest it’s a judgement call. If a one man band asks me to design a brochure website, I charge the same affordable rate as someone with lots of money. I don’t get greedy when I see a person’s name and status (you’ll see one soon). Similarly, when I was approached to quote for the website for the Manchester Tattoo Trust, I set a figure and then waived it not because I’m loaded (far from it) but because it was the right thing to do. I’ve been occasionally asked to do work for ex-students and ex-colleagues too: like proofreading, being a referee for job applications or offer advice on business ventures over coffee. I don’t sit, like some taxi-driver, with latte in one hand and meter in other, clocking up a bill, because some times it’s just the right thing to do.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no Mother Theresa. I tantrum loudly when someone asks for a trial piece or mentions exposure. Happy to do trials – as long as I’m paid for the trial. Less keen on the exposure myth, particularly when NDAs quickly accompany the brief. I’m quicker than a Tory on a fox when I see those two arrive. I’m getting better too at spotting bad clients and swerving them.

You see the enigma? I will work for free, yet I can’t abide late payers or slow payers.

By the end of this article, you’re probably no wiser.

But what you need to understand is this.

I work with integrity, creativity and to a high standard – yet I don’t exploit friends and clients with ridiculous copywriting charges and web design prices. 

Quality and affordability will be etched on my gravestone, which I’m hoping won’t be any day soon as the order book is creaking.

 

 

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