As a freelancer for the past 15 years, I want to first say that my stance on spec work or work that you do for someone else without getting compensated is something I’m not an advocate for.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t see the value or understand why some folks do it. It just means that I would rather put sweat equity into my own business and get a monetary payment for the time and effort I put into someone else’s business.
You to get a gauge on what my value in the market was. There’s no way to do that if you aren’t getting paid. Having someone tell me “let’s do this project and then if it goes well, I’ll have more work for you” never showed me that the person valued the work I was doing.
There may be certain circumstances where you need to take on spec work. Say for example you are a designer and looking to branch off into an industry that you have never worked in before. If you don’t have a other clients to show work, it may be hard to land a client.
Or if you are totally learning a new skill and want to offer services using that skill. Doing spec work will help you learn and get you that real world experience too.
Make sure to get sign off from that client for you to be able to use them in your portfolio?
As an alternative to spec work, try scaling back work.
Let’s assume you are starting anew and that’s why you are looking to work for free. Instead of doing the whole project, why not scale back and do a small, more manageable, less risky piece of the project.
That’s really what’s at play in all this. Risk.
The client wants to keep the price as low as possible, sure. But they want the price as low as possible to minimize their risk of potentially the work not getting done.
You get the real-world experience and learned skill. Plus, the scaled back timeframe allows you to get more initial pieces into your portfolio even faster.
If you are starting out, don’t just assume that you have to do work for free. Don’t be enticed by the “I’ll give you more work after this project is done” promise.
Think about what you can do that’s smaller, but still get you the learned skill you desire and build up a bit of a portfolio quicker so you can get to being respected for the value you are bringing to your clients’ businesses.
Start a Freelance Business
More episodes in this topic:
What are the costs involved in becoming a freelancer?
Is the income from freelancing reliable?
What payment structure should I do?
How do you build a good freelancing profile in the field of web development considering the competition?
What are skills you can learn fast and have high freelancer value?
How to start freelancing?
Should you do free work to build a portfolio?
What is freelance?
How can I start freelancing without experience?
What does it take to be a freelancer?
Why did you start freelancing?
What is the very first step to work as a freelancer?
How do you set the boundary of work you do and work you don't do?
What are your client red flags?
What should you be able to create as a web developer before starting in your freelance career?
When starting out freelance, should I just be a generalist to get my feet wet, or should I go for that niche?
As a developer, should I throw my projects on Github or build a site from scratch to grab attention?
What can I use for social proof when starting as a freelancer?
How can I start freelancing as a web developer?
Should I use my name or create a business name when starting?
Should I call myself a “freelancer” (definitive answer)?
Why should you not be a freelancer?
How do you collect online payments as a freelancer
How much money do I need to make?
Why is hourly billing bad?
Why is hourly billing good?
What are the biggest mistakes a freelancer can make?
How to adapt and change to the WordPress climate?
How to budget as a freelancer?
What is your marketing plan?
What is your sales process?
What do you do to position yourself as an expert to leads?
How do you balance your time for sales and marketing?
How do you get high-quality clients?
Should I offer my services as a web designer/developer or specialize first?
What do you do again?
What is the best freelancing website?
What do you do for a follow-up sequence for leads?
How to attract clients with big budgets?
How not to be annoying in sales?
How do you convince someone to sign a contract?
What to say when a client is late on a payment?
Best of Season 3 - Get out of the comfort zone
Best of Season 3 - Building Relationships
S06 E12 - Undercharging, Targeting the Wrong Audience, and What You Should Do About It with Alex McClafferty
S03 Bonus - Tom McFarlin on Blogging, Balancing Work and Family, and Building a Business that Lasts
S09 E11 - Differentiation, Reputation, and Pivoting From the Top-Down with Peep Laja
S01 E11 - Kai Davis helping freelancers get more clients with outreach