Should I work for free?

Working for a youth volunteering charity I’m used to young people asking why on earth they should ‘work for free.’ Firstly, volunteering is not work and secondly just because you’re not being paid in pound sterling doesn’t mean you’re not getting something out of it.

Just last week my gym manager was taking photos of his studio on his iPhone to put into a new fitness EBook he was creating. I knew I had my DSLR in the office close by and so offered him my photography services as a good will gesture. Two weeks later, I’m now working for him on a freelance basis and have since pocketed over £250, all from one act of kindness.

So why should you consider working for ‘free?’ In the new economy trust is everything. People are becoming more and more weary about how they spend their money and who they can trust enough to (a) do a good job and (b) not screw them over. ‘Free labour’ or sharing your skill set, as I like to call it, is an ideal way for developing relationships and a great way to plug yourself into new networks and build trust.

When your actions are carried out with sincerity (be they big or small), the community takes notice and repays. As the great Zig Ziglar once said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want,” so go on, help some one just because you can.

What do you think, should young people be willing to work for free? Leave a comment below!


  • Yes, as should middle aged and older people.

    The real cost is normally very small, and a decent boss will often help out with incidental expenses. For both parties it removes the risk from a big decision, it gives you a real insight into what they’d be like to work for and you can show what you can do far better than mere words on a CV. So yes, go on give both parties a chance.

    But I think your post highlights two other areas, the limitations we put on ourselves in terms of defining our roles and trapping us in a glass box of qualifications. If we go round the job market saying I’m a teacher, I’m an engineer, I’m a website wizard then we miss the chance to take up a new and potentially better role that’s just a bit different.

    Our view of qualifications can also limit us. Suppose another DSLR owner had said they could only attempt a commercial shoot if they’d taken a degree in photography, followed by a post grad in modern media studies and an internship with a famous studio? Whoops, there goes another chance.

    So – young, old or in between; guru level or not – give it a go. It might just work out for you.

    • Hey Jeff,

      Firstly, thank you for reading my blog. You make a great point about the way we limit ourselves through our qualification. I did exactly that when I left university thinking a career in television was my only option, it wasn’t until I took up an unpaid internship creating digital content that I realised my skills could be applied to several other industries. I guess the key here is that both young and old should be open to take on new challenges paid or unpaid and that their skill set shouldn’t be limited to the obvious career path.

      Have a great evening,

  • Young people benefit from volunteering because it allows them to gain skills and experience which they might not otherwise have the opportunity to develop; this makes them more employable.

    From a social perspective, recent generations haven’t had first hand experience a ‘great war’ or ‘great depression’ to really test their moral fibre and understand suffering, so volunteering to assist underprivileged people provides a sense of perspective and perhaps some gratitude.