How much work do you donate in a given year?
If you’re charging appropriately using value-based pricing, you can probably afford to donate at least one project annually to charity. Imagine what good could be done if every designer donated their services just once a year.
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But that’s not why you should give work away.
So why should you give away something that puts food in your fridge and gas in your tank?
Because you love what you do.
You have a passion for good design. It makes you happy. It makes people around you happy. And it should make you even happier to be able to share that with those who deserve it but may not be able to pay for it.
Working with companies on a limited budget, especially print projects, builds your creative muscles, too! It’s easy to create a standout piece with a big budget, but working on a pittance makes you approach a project in a different way.
And when you’re working for yourself, it’s important to have both pleasure and meaning in your work or you won’t want to keep at it very long.
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Have a cool project you did with almost no budget? Tell us about it in the comments!
Why working for free can actually benefit your business
Let’s look at (and dispel) some of the common myths for donating work:
- You won’t make enough money
- Giving work away drives prices down
- People won’t value your work because they didn’t pay for it
- You won’t be taken seriously
1. You won’t make enough money
Giving work away doesn’t mean you give all your work away.
When you take on paying work, charge appropriately so you have enough time to complete your pro bono project. If you’re undercharging, you won’t make enough even if you don’t work for free at all.
For more on pricing, check out:
- How to upsell your next design project
- How switching to value-based pricing transformed our small agency
- 4+ Pricing tips that will fast-track your profits and success
2. Giving work away drives prices down
This may have been true before the internet made freelancing an occupation available to anyone on the planet with an internet connection. Today you’re competing with freelancers who can work for pennies because of their low cost of living.
In fact, you can use the global economy to your advantage! Here’s how:
- 6 Reasons why you shouldn’t fear design outsourcing
- Confession: I’m a web designer. I outsourced my HTML. Here’s what I learned
- 7 Ways to save startup costs (that I wish I did 10 years ago!)
- 34 Business tasks you should stop doing & hire virtual staff for
3. People won’t value your work
There are tons of cash-strapped people out there who will kiss the ground you walk on if you do a great job on their free project. And even though they may not have the budget you’d like, chances are they have friends who do.
Seek out influential people, provide them with free work, and turn them into a human billboard.
4. You won’t be taken seriously
I’ve found the two most important things to making it as a freelancer are confidence and resilience.
If you conduct yourself as a professional, no matter how much you charge for your work, people will take you seriously.
Wondering what you might be missing? Read more here:
- How to offer a professional discount without cheapening your services
- No one taking you seriously? Here’s how to position yourself as an expert for massive credibility and respect
We’re all in business to make money. Giving work away doesn’t mean you should relegate yourself to becoming the stereotypical starving artist.
But everyone needs a little help sometimes. Think about it: there’s probably at least one person in your past who helped you out at no charge, with no strings attached.
Why not return the favor and pay it forward?
You’ll be glad you did.
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