Should you work for free? As a freelancer, we always ask this, or maybe someone just getting out of school, you're asking this. The best way to build up your portfolio is to do those projects that you may not be getting paid top dollar for, and you may have to work for free. Now the school that I went to always said don't ever work for free, and I can agree with them on some cases, because you will be burnt out very quickly. So you have to know when to walk away, Which is why I think one of the best websites out there is Catchafire, because they're not only doing something for a really good cause and organization, but is structured, so they allow you to do it, or they tell you up front, hey, you're going to spend five hours on this, are you cool with that, good, let's do it, and then you have three months to do those five hours of work. So it's a really good place to start.
When I first started out, I answered a random ad on Craig's List, and did a whole bunch of logos for free, because it was like an internship. Once I learned that I was doing someone else's work, I easily walked away, and then started basically telling myself that I can do these things, and I started advertising myself as a designer, and as a junior designer, or as an intern designer, because even interns do get paid, or at least get a stipend.
So, it's a really hard question to answer, like can you, should you work for free. As actually Jessica Hische, she's a very awesome typography and logo designer, actually has a flowchart asking if you should work for free. Like is it for family, probably you shouldn't work for free. Is it for, you know, like a big company that you know has money, but just wants to do like a design contest, then you probably shouldn't work for free. There's a lot of things that, of course, you're going to have to sacrifice at first, but once you actually know your worth, and this can be something too, ask a mentor, ask somebody that's doing a design that you want to do, ask them, do you think I can get paid for my work. Don't try to keep everything inside thinking that your work isn't good enough.
At the end of the day, if you're going to work for free, work for a good cause. Or if you're not going to work for free, then find out what you can charge, even if it is a little bit. So make sure you know your worth, and then do so accordingly, and just be consistent and have fun along the way.