When to Work for Free

When to Work For Free

No matter how long or little you’ve been working for, there will always be people who’ll ask you to work for free. With experience, you learn to figure out when doing free work will actually benefit you and when it will be a huge waste of time. When starting out it can be tempting to jump onto unpaid jobs with the allure of exposure and future work, but most of the time these are just empty promises. So how does one decide when to take on a job? Photographer, director, and Flightpath speaker Goh Iromoto uses a strategy he calls “The Rule of the Big Three” to decide if a job (paid or not) is worth perusing.

When to Work For Free

The three reasons Goh takes on jobs are – Money, the Relationship, or Creativity. “If it has just one of those, I go ahead and do it. If it has all three, that’s the bonus”, he says. Let’s take a look at each of these three things closer and see how and when they would apply.

Money – This one is the most obvious, if a job pays well then you should take it, unless it’s something horrible or immoral which should be fairly obvious.

Relationship – Will the job result in building a valuable relationship? A great relationship with an editor or art director can yield huge returns in future work, including work for other companies. It helps to ask around and do some research to see who the people you would be working with are and if it’s worth doing them a favour.

Creativity – So maybe the job doesn’t pay much or anything at all and there doesn’t appear to be any value in the relationship you’ll get as a result. However, you can agree to do the project as long as you have full creative control. It will be a great time to try something new or extra ambitious and get your equipment rental costs covered. Projects that push the boundaries often result in future work as well. So if you can get full control and the OK on a wild idea then go for it!

You can watch Goh’s entire talk here, he talks about “the Rule of the Big Three” at around the 8m:20s mark. Please leave a comment sharing how you decide whether to take on free work or not.

Image by Amarand Agasi