Category: Logo Design

10 things clients say to get you to work for free

I’m certain that every creative professional out there has been asked to work for free at least once. And I’m sure that each and every creative professional out there has worked for free (or ridiculously small amount of money) much more than once. We are promised the world, but sooner or later we realize we are being used. And yet we let it happen again and again, because we hope that next time we’ll be appreciated. Before we know it we are in a loop and the “quality projects” just never seem to come. The clients which demand amazing work, done in couple of hours, but who won’t pay anything, bring you more of their kind. All of a sudden you are known as the girl or guy who does free graphics. As soon as you mention budget or hourly rates the clients disappear without a trace. And on and on it goes…

So I’ve decided to put together the most common excuses I hear when someone is trying to get me to do some free work for them.


“We are a charity/ non profit organisation”

Hey, that’s great! I’m glad you are making the world a better place. I’m sure if all people got fair payment for their work the world would already be a better place.


“We are a start up”

Great! I love start-ups! In fact I consider myself a start up of a sort. I’m sure you’d like people to appreciate the product you put so much love, effort and time in. I know I do!


“It’s a small job, it will only take you like 10 minutes”

As an authority on the matter, I am the one who can actually tell how long a job will take. And no, it never takes 10 minutes! But if it does I’d be happy to calculate that for you, based on my current hourly rate.


“It will lead to more work in the future”

Yay, more unpaid work, thank you for the opportunity!


“…but we have great faith in our venture and are sure we’ll be able to pay you later”

That’s nice! I have great faith in your venture too, so please call me later.


“It will look great in your portfolio”

My portfolio already looks quite good, isn’t that why you called me?


“If you do this for me, I’ll do *insert any kind of tradable favour or product here* for you”

Aww! That’s so sweet of you! And how about you pay for my work and I pay for yours?


“I already have an idea, I just need someone who knows Photoshop/ Illustrator”

I’d be happy to direct you to the hundreds of helpful free tutorials available online!


“My wife/ neighbour/ brother etc. can do it too, but they are busy at the moment”

What a coincidence, so am I!


“This project will give you a lot of valuable exposure”

Yay! I’d be contacted by so much more freeloaders in the future! Can’t wait!


I’m not saying working for free is never an option. A starting designer does need to acquire experience. An internship at a good company or a work for a big project that will in fact be viewed by a lot of people in an industry you are interested in, a charity you believe in, a job that requires skills you don’t have, but want to learn, etc. These are all potentially beneficial for both sides and one should consider them. But when it happens too often, when people do not appreciate the work you do for them, when they treat you as if you owe them something, when they keep promising, but never deliver anything, than you should stop.

I have decided for myself to only work for free as my own initiative. If there’s a cause or a project that interests me, but the organization can’t pay me I might come up with something to contribute anyway and I’ll offer it for free. But I have learned to respect myself and never ever again work for a client who expects me to produce something for free or for insultingly low payment and on top of it requires unreasonable deadlines and insane quality.


What about you? What do clients tell you when they try to get you to work for free? Do you actually do it or send them on their way?