Monthly Archives: September 2013

Advice #55: Should You Ever Work For Free?

Advice: Should You Ever Work For Free?


I’m a graphic design student, currently working in-house (but for way below an average in-house rate) and I have a few freelance clients. Only one is paying me and the others want work for free. I don’t know how much more free work I can do. I’m worried that if I say no, I could miss out on some legitimate work for my portfolio. But I also have bills, rent and student loans to pay back. What do you think?

First off, when it comes to both personal and professional relationships, we teach people how to treat us. And let’s be real — while gaining projects for your portfolio can be incredibly valuable, working for free won’t keep your bills paid.

It’s a slippery slope because you need real life design experience but don’t ever sell yourself short in the process — you’re training to be a professional in your field and that’s a serious investment! There’s a bigger issue: if you’re taking on so much free work that you’re unable to pay your bills, it just pushes you further from your dream because at some point, you’ll have to pick up another job to make up for the slack. Wouldn’t it just be easier to charge your clients a fair rate and focus on what you actually love doing as a job?

By agreeing to do design work for free, you’re setting a precedent with your clients that it’s perfectly okay to expect the relationship to continue as it always has. And really, who can blame them? They’re getting access to a dedicated, talented freelance designer with no strings attached. To be completely honest, it’s going to be hard to flip the tables and start charging them — I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them throw a tantrum. After all, who doesn’t love free work? But, you need to stand your ground. Once you start valuing your time and work, they’ll respect you much more.

I know what it’s like to break into the design industry and to need work for your portfolio. I landed my first design internship at a studio in 2007 (when the economy was in much better shape) and it was paid for the entire time. Even though I had a paid internship, I still sought out freelance work to round out my portfolio. I wasn’t super confident with my work yet because I was still in school and learning my craft so I charged what I felt comfortable with. My first ever logo jobs were for a flat rate of $200.00. It was a win-win situation: my clients got a fantastic deal and I gained valuable work for my portfolio. After doing a handful of those $200.00 logos, I felt more confident and eventually raised my rates to $500.00. And then to $1,000.00 post graduation. And then to $1,500.00 and continually on up until I was earning a decent living. It was a slow and steady increase over a few years as demand grew. There weren’t any sudden jolts — I eased into my rates. The point is, I never, ever worked for free, unless it was to help out a close friend.

I should clarify that your paid in-house position and the work you’re doing for your personal clients are two very different things. As a student, it’s important to take on internships (paid or unpaid) to gain real world experience. They’re often for school credit and the industry connections you gain are more than worth the low compensation. But when it comes to offering your clients free work, what are you really gaining? The energy you spend working on their projects could be used to build your personal brand, to create self-initiated projects and to network.

Graphic design is just like any other profession. You would never expect a plumber come to your house to fix a leaky pipe for free. A cobbler would never fix your shoes just because. Graphic design requires a specialized skill set and you’ve put in serious time and money to gain those skills. Demand more of yourself and you’ll get more. Lead by example and stand your ground when it comes to your rates and never compromise on doing free work unless it’s absolutely, completely, totally worth it.

What do you think? Are there any circumstances where you think it’s okay to work for free?

What I Wore: 9.9.13 | Hello From London!

What I Wore: London

Hello from London! Last Wednesday, we flew straight from Santorini into town and awoke at 6 a.m. Thursday morning to begin our four day stretch of teaching two back-to-back workshops with The Blogcademy. After wrapping up our time at Curtain Road Studios, we had Monday off and made the most of it — we visited Selfridges, Liberty, Topshop, Sketch (which deserves a proper post of its own), Illamasqua and more.

Around the corner from Liberty, I beelined towards a gaggle of phone booths and made the most of being a tourist.

I Wore:
Wrap Dress, DVF (San Marcos Outlets, Texas)
Necklace, H&M
Boots, All Saints
Umbrella, H&M

What I Wore: London

I’m flying from London to New York this afternoon to spend a few days with friends before heading back to Portland just in time for my birthday. I’ll have much more to share from my time in both London and New York on Friday. xo

Easy Breezy Santorini: A Video Diary

Easy Breezy Santorini Video

With whitewashed buildings, winding roads and some of the best sunsets in the world, Santorini is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. I’m not the type of person that does a lot of research before a big trip to somewhere new and in a way, I prefer it that way because I don’t want to build up my expectations. But thankfully, Santorini more than delivered. And Gala packed her camera along, documenting our adventures.

From lounging on a sun-drenched balcony to trying on one too many pairs of sunglasses, to sailing through the Aegean Sea, you’ll get an inside peek into what our brief island adventure was like:

P.S. The song is Million Dollar Bills by Lorde.

9.6.13: The Week In Pictures | Mykonos

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

I’ll admit to being very disappointed at the prospect of leaving Santorini at first. But in the end, the contrast kept things interesting during our seven days in Greece. While we’d stayed at a quaint private villa nestled high on a hilltop that overlooked the sea in Santorini, our Mykonos digs were at the Grace Hotel which is known for its impeccable service and beautiful pool.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

The gorgeous views, attention to detail and freshly prepared meals at the Grace made it hard to leave. We slept in every morning and then lounged by the pool, each admitting that this was our first proper non-working vacation in ages.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

During our first full day in Mykonos, we ventured into town and strolled along the waterfront.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

Unlike the rocky terrain and steep inclines of Santorini, the town is a little more walkable with smooth paths featuring hundreds of shops and cafes. Remember though, if there’s something you like, buy it on the spot — the streets are so maze-like that it’s unlikely that you’ll find your way back!

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

Many of the signs are hand-painted which only adds to the charm of the town.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

The temperature on Mykonos is cooler than Santorini and it hovered between the high 70s and low 80s for every day that we were there. I mostly packed along simple basics like this outfit with a Forever 21 tank, vintage wrap skirt, MOMA lace-up sandals and Dries van Noten sunglasses.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

I loved this scene so much: This doorway opens directly to the sea.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

Scenes like this felt like they were ripped straight out of an old film. Besides all the tourists wandering about, everything felt very much frozen in time.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

Even more surreal was seeing this post office box along the edge of the water.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

We attempted to stay offline as much as possible and engage in doing a whole lot of nothing. It was a welcome change — but it did take me a few days to adjust.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

We went nail polish shopping but found it impossible to settle on just one color.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

And in between pool time and going to town, we visited the beach directly below our hotel.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

Instagrams are fun but no trip is complete without a handful of Instax shots.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

We ventured out during our first night in Mykonos for dinner and honestly, it was pretty sub-par. The following nights, we had dinner at our hotel and the sea bass was unbelievably good.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

Even though I was head over heels with Santorini, Mykonos quickly grew on me for different reasons. While Santorini was all about exploring and watching the sunsets, Mykonos was about pure relaxation and many poolside drinks.

Week in Pictures: Mykonos

As our boat pulled away from Mykonos Tuesday afternoon, I was sad to go but excited to know that we had one last night in our Santorini villa, overlooking the Aegean Sea. If you’re visiting the Greek islands, please stop off at more than one — it keeps things exciting and they all have subtle differences that you’ll grow to appreciate.

In an upcoming post I’ll be sharing more specifics about everywhere we stayed, what we packed and how we arranged transport between the islands. Do you have any other questions you’d like me to cover?

Link Love: 9.5.13

link love

Link Love

• We deserve the clients we get.

• Five reasons you’re earning more money but still unhappy.

• Interior designer Kelly Wearstler shares her personal story along with some great business advice.

• Here’s why purpose has nothing to do with what you “do”.

• If you’re planning a Kickstarter campaign, read this first.

• It’s interesting to read a photographer’s perspective on Pinterest.

• 3 simple questions to understand why your affiliate promotions aren’t working.

• How one lady decided to dream big and landed her ideal job in a up and coming startup.

• Is there really such a thing as a workaholic?

• I love the simplicity of this blade necklace.

• Lisa Devlin discusses why she’s not giving up as a photographer and it comes down to a passion for her craft.

• Storytelling will be the #1 business skill over the next five years.

• 12 unique responsive WordPress themes.

Image: Traveling Greener