3 cases where you should consider the dreaded “free work”

We’ve all been there when a client asks for free work in some shape or form:

  • “Can you take a quick look at and let me know what … “
  • “If you do this, I’ll have plenty of work for you later!”
  • “How about you do this project for some exposure?”
  • “Mind if we pay you with equity?”

I can go on and on with the clever ways clients asked me for free work. I often like to look at it from their angle. Here are a few reasons why they may have asked for free work:

  • They read a blog on how they can get free work from freelancers (lol…).
  • They know how hard it is to get exposure so, they try to leverage it to their advantage.
  • Are in a state of financial stress (but, aren’t we all?)
  • Are uneducated on how freelancing works.
  • Just an entitled jerk (this is easiest to handle!)

Regardless of their reason. Do what’s best for you. In most cases, it’s a simple answer to remedy the issue.

“No, I need to be paid for my services”

I think we already know this but, what about those times where you do want to work for “free”. Those cases do exist!

Here are 3 situations where free work can help you out in the long run.


Getting new clients

Sometimes, especially when starting out. You need to prove yourself to some degree. Fair, right? Ask yourself, is working for 15 mins on a report for a potential client who is expressing “great interest” worth it? How about jumping on a call and giving them some advice based on your experiences? What about describing a high-level solution to their problem?

These are cheap giveaways that gain the trust of a potential client. The skill is deciding which clients are worth these giveaways.

Getting exposure on your terms

It’s one thing for someone to reach out to you for their project saying it could give you exposure. It’s completely different when you reach out to someone for exposure. If you’re going to do free work, choose the work you want to do with the client you want to work with (mind-blown yet?).

See a small business that you have some awesome ideas for? Send them an email saying you want to use them for a case study at no charge to them.

Keeping a loyal client happy

This is a little tricky. Sometimes you have a client that’s just amazing to work with and you want to keep them happy.  (right? right?!) They pay on time. Send additional work your way. Easy to work with. Etc… Overall, the ideal client! These are the clients I rather not give the impression I’m trying to nickel and dime them.

You have to ask yourself, is an hour-long “Pro Bono” call worth it to build a better relationship with this client? Maybe? I most cases, I would assume so. Just don’t go overboard.


In summary: Use your best judgment but, just don’t feel pressured to do free work. Make the “free work”, work in your favor.

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