Wondering if it’s worth it to work for free?
Maybe you wanna beef up your portfolio.
Maybe you think you need experience to land paid gigs.
Or maybe you’re completely new and have no idea where else to start.
Wherever you’re at, this article will help. I’m gonna show you…
- When it’s worth it to offer free work.
- When it’s a complete waste of time.
- What you can do instead to get your copywriting career off the ground.
Mmk, let’s get to it!
When It’s DUMB To Work For Free:
Taking on free work can be tempting if you’re brand new and desperate to get your foot in the door.
After all, how are you supposed to land clients with an empty portfolio?
Unfortunately, while the free work strategy makes sense on paper, it rarely ends well. That’s because…
- Free work doesn’t get taken seriously.
- You’ll likely do endless re-writes with no reward.
- They might not even use it, sending you back to square one.
I’m not saying it never works. But if you’re not careful, it could be a colossal waste of time.
Here’s some instances where you should NOT work for free:
That said, there are instances when you 100% should take on free work…
When It’s SMART To Work For Free:
Working for free can make sense if it benefits you a lot, here’s some examples:
All of this stuff is important and should be considered when deciding to take on a new project—whether free or paid.
Now, if you’re BRAND new (i.e. you’ve never worked with a client or published anything before) go ahead and take on a free project, regardless of who the client is.
But If you already have experience under your belt, I’d avoid free work UNLESS…
- It’s a dream opportunity
- It’s for someone well-known in your industry
- It has a high probability of boosting your career forward
Don’t forget to consider the PITA factor though. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well-connected a person is or what the potential upside might be….
…if the person is a suckface and drains the happiness from your life – is it really worth it?
How Long Should You Work For Free?
No matter how influential the person is you’re working for, there’s a limit to everything.
At some point ya gotta pay the bills, yo!
Don’t let people take advantage of you. If you take on a free or discounted project and see it’s not gonna lead anywhere, get out fast.
Because the truth is, there ARE people who will take advantage of you.
If an influential client allowed you to work with them in the first place, that means they know you’ve got skills. And if you’ve got skills, you should be getting paid.
How To Build Your Portfolio WITHOUT Working For Free:
But if you don’t work for free, how the F are you supposed to build the credibility needed to land paying clients?
Pick a niche you want to target, write a killer article on a hot industry topic, and publish it on Blogger.com or Medium.com. Easy peasy. Take it one step further by reaching out to influencers your ideal client follows and asking them to share it.
If you can get over that camera shyness and create a few high-quality videos, you’ll instantly boost your credibility. Add them to your portfolio, email signature, social media profiles—wherever a potential client might look to see if you’re legit.
Post an offer on social media:
Tap into the combined networks of friends and family to find your first paying client. Instead of working for free, set a small goal to make your first $100 online (chances are you’ll end up with way more).
Contact previous employers:
Many freelancers get their start by working for previous employers. Your boss already trusts you (hopefully), so it’s an easy sell.
Become Reddit famous:
Make yourself popular in the subreddits (or other forums, Facebook groups, etc.) your ideal clients hang out in. Be genuinely helpful and demonstrate your knowledge without trying to sell anything. Pretty soon, you’ll be seen as the expert.
Sell your own product:
Find something to sell and write copy to sell it. If you’re successful, you’ll have real results to show potential clients. (Plus you’ll actually make some money!)
As you can see, you’ve got options.
These techniques will get you WAY further than writing a free autoresponder for Larry’s Lawncare LLC that never gets published.
So pick one and give it a try!
Hope this helps!