Creative freelancers: Doing free work is not a rite of pa$$age.


I’m not even going to give you an intro here. If you’re a graphic design freelancer, or any freelancing creative really, doing work for free or without a paid contract in place is NOT a rite of passage.

Yes, even if you’re a student or new to the field. Take what you’ve done for fun, for classes, when practicing, etc. You will be able to make an introductory portfolio out of this. Even designing and creating your own portfolio is by itself a showcase of your skills, whether it’s a traditional advertising portfolio, a website, all in Issuu, or in the influencer marketing world, an Instagram handle.

If you don’t know your worth, how will they?

Building up your portfolio does not need to include doing free work for clients. In fact, that’s part of what has led to the corporate world being so stingy with creative freelancers.

Besides, it’s more and more about how you sell yourself and showing you understand a client’s vision. Not sample work that you’re bitter about having to complete in the first place.

More than half of all freelancers EVERYWHERE give in to doing work for free. Of those, most of the free projects never lead to larger paid projects, and most of the freelancers that gave in are under the age of 25. This isn’t necessarily because the over-25-ers already ‘paid their dues.’ It’s because they’ve finally learned when to say no.

Spec work should not be a thing

If a client wants to see the type of work you do, a portfolio is enough if you sell it right. If they want something from THEIR project done as a free sample, gtfo. Or set up a contract for a set number of hours and an estimate of what the entire project might cost after that. (More advice on that here.)

They’re not just paying for a set number of hours of work.

Don’t undersell yourself. Your clients aren’t just paying for the number of hours their project takes you. They’re paying for a freelancer who specializes in what you do, have practiced as much as you have to be able to do it at a certain pace, and don’t forget all the hours you spend pitching and communicating before any contract is signed.

Know your worth, add tax, and then aim even higher than that in the negotiation. This path you’ve chosen requires confidence, independence, and knowing the industry and how to sell yourself.

You won’t believe it, but this all also goes for entering contests that get you noticed by bigger companies and creative experts. Don’t pay hundreds of dollars (or even $50) just to be considered alongside all the others that enter everything because they financially can.

You can get noticed for way less money than that, with a contest that truly measures talent. Not experience, not age, not class status, nor status quo.

Does your future vision for yourself include a list of everyone who got your talent for free?

Whether it’s with a project with an online magazine, an influencer marketer, a digital branding magazine, or a random writer’s article about millennial buying trends

You can build the skills around your (1) creative personality and (2) selling talent.

 

Not by doing free work.

Not by selling yourself short.

Not by sticking to what the traditional industry put in your lap.

But by being true to you, what you know you can do best, and what you got into this industry for to begin with: daring creativity.

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