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

Looking to start freelancing? Wonder what you need to think about, put in place, or even what freelancing is all about? Here is where you’ll find the latest answers to those questions.
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