Here are some of the reasons you might do free or spec work for a “client”:
- You are doing it to stretch your own creative palette.
- It advances you directly along the route towards where you want to take your business or career.
- It changes your portfolio in such a way that you will get the kind of new client work that you are seeking.
- You will enjoy complete creative control over the project.
- You will be proud of it when it is done.
- You understand and can accept the investment of your time and money that it will consume.
- It is better to be doing something you like rather than another cookie-cutter gig that barely pays the rent.
- It is a well-defined pitch competition and you will own the work and be able to show it off even when you don’t win the business.
- It is a well-defined pitch competition and you like your odds of winning.
- You are doing it for someone who has promised as a result to give you vast quantities of paid work that will excite you – and you actually believe 250% (not less) that they will come through on this. (or will you be suckered again?)
So make a rule for yourself – if you can answer yes to five of these for any specific project then consider doing it. And do be clear with your “client” as to what the actual cost to them should have been. Just so they know for next time.
Picture: HenryWallis’s romanticized 1856 vision of The Death of Chatterton. A posthumous romantic painting of your deathbed could be a motivation for working for nothing I suppose – but it does nothing for me.