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Should You Work for Free?

Should You Work for Free?

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

October 26, 2010

Should you work for free? I want to know what you think.

But wait, it’s not that simple. Here are six separate scenarios. Would you work for free in any of these situations? Why or why not?

1. Doing some work for free, for a limited time period, in order to get experience in a field you want to move into (and in which you currently have no applicable experience).

2. Lending your skills as a volunteer to a nonprofit organization that does good work on a cause you care about. This nonprofit has very limited financial resources and its staff works for low salaries.

3. Lending your skills as a volunteer to a nonprofit organization that does good work on a cause you care about. This nonprofit is well-funded and its (talented and in-demand) executive director earns six figures, but the organization uses volunteers in order to put more funds toward its program work.

4. Doing regular work for free for an organization that will look prestigious on your resume. The work is demanding but people are impressed when they learn you’re associated with them.

5. The same prestigious work as in #4, but now you’ve already been doing it for a year or two. Have you derived all the benefit you need/want from it, or do you continue?

6. Offering your services for free for a limited time to prove yourself to an employer or client you really want to work for.

Have at it in the comments! I’m very interested in hearing what people think.

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