11 Reasons Why Doing Free Work Pays Off

You did it. You’ve got a diploma or certificate that’ll serve as the launching pad for your career. You have a solid GPA, a nice looking resume, and have been interviewing for your big boy or big girl job. It seems you’re set up to begin working, so why haven’t you gotten any job offers yet?

I’ve been there. I spent longer than I’d like to admit trying to get a job right out of college.

Or are you someone who has been in your industry for a few years but hasn't “leveled up” yet? That was me at one point too.

There are many, many ways you can advance your career. This month, I want to talk about something that has been crucial to the growth of my professional life: doing free work. Here are eleven reasons how doing free work has paid back its value and more.

There are Two Types of Free Work

For Yourself

You are the client and the contractor. You have complete control over the project.

For an Organization

You donate goods and services to an organization. A 2nd party has influence in direction.

11 Reasons Why Doing Free Work Pays Off

1. Control

Doing free work for yourself means you have more control. You are the designer and the client. You control the type of work, timeline, scope, concept, style, direction… Does thinking about that make you feel like a villain who dreams about world domination?

Doing a project on your own for yourself means you have the power to give up on a project too. The only person who takes the hit is your time and energy as opposed to client resources. No awkward or devastating conversations with a boss.

2. Fill an Experience Gap

Like many of my peers, there were a few gaps in my portfolio and experiences employers were looking for coming fresh out of college. Many turn to internships to fill these gaps. However, internships can be difficult to find and land. If you're having a hard time getting one, create one for yourself. I asked my church if I could offer my services for free in exchange for resume and portfolio building experiences. This experience was crucial in setting myself up for my first full-time job.

Can't afford to work for free after college? Working a whatever-job and doing the internship part-time on the side can be acceptable.

This works for later in one's career too. I wanted to learn how to design websites using the online platform, Wix, so I decided to redesign my portfolio website using that platform. It wasn’t perfect, but I was then able to offer that skill to new clients. I have clients today because I was able to offer services using Wix.

3. Challenge Yourself

Stuck in a job doing mindless work that isn’t going to “wow” potential employers and clients? Imposing a challenging project on yourself can help build your resume to open new doors. It can also be a nice change in your regular workflow.

4. Practice

Piano teachers were right to nag us to practice more! If you want to become better at something, you have to practice. If you’re not consistently investing time into a skill, you’re bound to stagnate or make backward progress.

I’ve decided to make logo design a part of my social media. Logo design can be one of the most difficult things to do in the graphic design field. That’s why I can charge as much as I do! I really don’t want to get rusty with this skill, so I’ve decided to make this a regular part of my work.