Episodes Recorded

Ep.10 Free (Aug 13 2020)

Is there ever a time when you should work for free? For instance, “to gain experience,” on-spec work that promises to “choose the best design,” or “for exposure”?

Stickynotes episode 10, August 13 2020

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Details from this session

Is there ever a time when you should work for free? For instance, “to gain experience,” “we’ll choose the best design,” or “for exposure”?

It can be tempting to do UX work in return for something other than money – for instance to get experience in the field, or to reach a wider audience.

But what does that actually do for you, for your career, and for others in the industry? Is there ever a time when working for free is acceptable?

Just to be clear, Chris has made his position on this pretty apparent in a previous article “Why you should never work for free,” but that doesn’t stop you from finding good ways to get the experience you need.

During this session, Cory and Chris differentiated between work which you don’t get paid for, but for which you receive some kind of benefit, and work which you do because you feel you have no other options.

For instance, if you need to get experience working in the field of UX, you might do work in return for:

  • Course credit at your school
  • A feeling of contributing to a non-profit or faith-based organization that you couldn’t afford to support financially
  • Financial recognition, just not as much as if you were a full-time employee
  • A potential equity stake in a startup who claim not to be able to afford to hire you

But you might not do unpaid work for:

  • A company who can obviously afford to hire you
  • Vague promises about hiring you in the future if this piece of work turns out OK, or if people there like you, or when a position opens up or…
  • Exposure – this concept that you should be honored to have your work accepted

Lots of the comments we received in the live chat were about how tough it is right now to gain experience that you can use in your portfolio. Some counterpoints from the audience were that there are ways of creating portfolio pieces that do not require working for free. You might not get paid in money, but there are other forms of reward. Also, there are times when you might just suck it up and do the work, knowing it’s likely to benefit you longer term.

There was lots more in the episode. Watch the recording to see it all for yourself!

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