The side effects of doing free work.

This post is in reference to an article by Allen Murabayashi, The Consequences of Working for Free.


Artists are frequently promised exposure and future paid work for giving their creations for free…Promises are for tomorrow and tomorrow never comes.

Thanks for sharing this Keisha Jordan. I have many enterprising friends who may not know their worth and I hope this helps them.

Something I learned 13 years ago as Assistant Property Manager for Village Green Apartments in Ann Arbor, MI, was "any price is too high without perceived value". This was shown to me while leasing $1,200+/month apartments in a college town with $600 rents as the average, and we stayed at 90-95% occupancy on the regular basis.

Folks are willing to pay for what they value. That's been my leading thought since I learned that back in 2001 and also within my business. My time + my experience + my education + my tools = worth paying for. 

That window of free work should be planned. "I'm going to build my portfolio and do free work for the next 6 months", then cut it off and charge. Someone is always willing to pay for your skill be it on the beginner or expert level. "Future work" never comes and "building your portfolio" doesn't pay the bills.

I've been in this game for a long time, I still do free work from time to time, based on the trade off. I have to get something out of the deal, be it an in-kind advertising trade off or personal satisfaction, but that's my call.

If your boss asked you to do free work off the clock, would you? Same thing.

Final thoughts on doing free or low ball work:

  • You can never raise the price (get market rate) on your consumer once you've spoiled them. They're going to expect that same price or low ball, or go to someone else.
  • Never be afraid to turn down business because you have a bill due, I get it, I've been there. Self-respect matters, and low balling leads back to point #1.
  • Keep stepping your game up to be able to command market rate, or higher if you have a specific niche you're filling or specific expertise.

I've failed MANY times and got burned MANY times. Listen to folks, you don't need to recreate the wheel.

Be dope. Create. Get Paid. Respect the Brand. ‪#‎kevindavisbrand‬


When someone works for free it decreases what services are considered to be worth and, therefore, decreases what professionals can charge.