When working for free is really worth it

Can't get job experience? Frustrating, right? One way around this is to work for free. But when is it okay to take a job without getting paid for it?

when is working for free worth it?

Many organisations offer internship programmes or holiday jobs for students, but not all of these gigs lead to a pay day. Working for free can help you sharpen your skills, and can give you valuable experience to put on your resumé.

But just because you’re not getting paid, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know your worth. Always agree to terms and conditions before you commit to anything. Clear communication and understanding with the people you are doing the work for, is key.

Here are 6 instances when it’s okay to work for free.


It’s worth it if: you’re going to get real-world experience

When it comes to landing a job, and a choice between you and the cum laude graduate next to you, real-life experience could swing the vote in your favour. But if you are going to work for free, first ask yourself what you stand to gain from the experience. Set some clear goals and work within those parameters. Do you want to build up a photography portfolio? Do you need to sharpen your writing skills? If self-improvement is on the cards, then make the most of the opportunity.

Don’t do it if: you feel like your employer is taking advantage of you. Sure you can edit something again, and again. But if you’re not also being invited to observe and learn, then say goodbye.  


It’s worth it if: it could be a springboard to a paid position 

Times are tough and businesses across all sectors are cutting back. Some companies might not be bluffing. They really can’t pay you. Consider going to the business with a proposal. Offer to carry out a research project or do some overdue data capturing. If you can prove you are an asset to the company, in a few months that unpaid job might lead to one that comes with a pay day.

Don’t do it if: you’re not being acknowledged for your work. If you are contributing original ideas, or taking on an extended contract for free, it’s not a bad idea to get an agreement drawn up in writing.


It’s worth it if: you stand to gain actual exposure

Whether you’re told that your byline will appear with a published story, or you’ll be credited as one of the auditors of a financial year-end report, a lot of free job offers come with empty promises for exposure. Before you agree to work purely for the fame, ask yourself these important questions: How many people will actually see your work? Are they your target audience? Will the job help you stand out from the crowd?

Don’t do it if: you get no acknowledgement and no money. If the company you are working for has a big footprint, they should have enough money to pay you. Consider offering to do the first few jobs for free, and then charging a nominal fee, which can be increased commensurate with your experience.


It's worth it if: it will look good on your CV

It’s a common misconception that high profile companies have the deepest pockets. But a respected organisation with a household name can offer you a huge cache for your CV. Being able to say you wrote an article for a well-known newspaper sounds better than admitting you’ve only ever been published on your own blog. Credibility has its own value, and if it’s a feature on your CV, you’re bound to land a more lucrative job, soon.

Don’t do it: if the company is a mom-and-pop shop. You want a few big names that carry clout on your CV.


It's worth it: if it presents a networking opportunity

It’s not always about what you know, sometimes it’s about who you know. Working with dynamic professionals and creative thinkers will be inspirational, whatever your chosen field. Make a good impression, go the extra mile, even if no one asks you to. People move around more and more in modern-day work environments, you want to be the kid they remember when it comes to filling a paid position at a new gig. 
Don’t do it: if you’re surrounded by mediocrity. You should be looking for leadership, and following in the footsteps of game changers.


It's worth it: if you believe in the business

Sometimes working for free is about what you give, not what you get. If there’s a charitable organisation that you are passionate about, and they could use your help, put in the hours. The job probably won’t jumpstart your career, but the feel-good factor is priceless.

Don’t do it: if you end up giving all your time away for free. Set a limit to the number of hours you are willing to devote to the job, and be strict about setting boundaries.


Move to Capitec

We definitely offer banking that’s worth it. Move to Capitec and enjoy a low admin fee of R5 a month and only pay as you transact. Plus, with Global One, you’ll get 4 free savings plans and earn interest on your transactional account.

Was this article helpful?



You may also like...