Should You Work For Free

Do you want the quick answer, then no, or if you want the long answer, then yes. Regardless, the answer to this question gets complicated fast when friends find out about your talents, family asks for favors, or the company you work for finds out you do photography on the side. Life already has a habit of eating away at all your free time, and to burden yourself with unwanted, time-consuming side projects that don’t compensate you are hardly worth the effort.

When people approach me to ask them to do a video, I ask them two questions. “What is the goal of the project, and what is your budget?”

Not only that, they sometimes end up breaking friendships and straining long-time relationships. However, there are always two sides to every coin. Having a skill such as photography, graphic design, video/editing skills can life-saving to a small organization, village committee, or another church group that is in dire need of some work done, yet doesn’t have a budget.

There is always a time and place for doing work for charity, as I take on several video projects per year to help people out. Yet, if I did that all the time instead of focusing on projects that pay the bills, my family wouldn’t be the number one priority for very long. It is important to know what you are worth and to know how much to charge people.

When people approach me to ask them to do a video, I ask them two questions. “What is the goal of the project, and what is your budget?” The answer to those two question will tell you alot about whether this is a project you want to get involved with. If they the client has a clear focus and direction, along with a budget, it’s probably worth looking into. However, if the client looks at the ground while rabbit trailing through different thought patterns on what they dream about creating, step away slowly, and move on. Don’t get burned by getting suckered into a huge project that has low publicity for zero pay, accompanied by lots of headaches and failed directives.

The key to this is to know what your time is worth. What is the true value of your skills? While some people ask me what my hourly rate is, I give them a total amount and say that I don’t work by the hour. I may charge $1000 for a video that took me only a day to complete. That sounds ridiculous and near extortionist you might say. I disagree. I charge alot because I know exactly how to deliver a quality product the client wants in a very quick turn-around time.

The client is paying for my 15+ years in the video realm and packaging all the knowledge and experience into that one price. I could either charge a $1000 and take week to do it, or I could charge $1000 and get it done in a day. What client wouldn’t want their end product on a quicker time table? I may charge less or more depending on the project and the demand on my time.

The point is, after many years of doing video work for clients, I have learned that you don’t get anywhere by doing things for free. People will take advantage of you if you do, so start figuring out what you’re worth, and translate that into dollars. It will help keep you on track for a fruitful career. Jessica Hische has done a brilliant job answering this question on her website.

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