Have you seen the conversation about doing design work for craft companies for free?

It started with Jenny from Craft Test Dummies, but I didn't stumble upon it until Diane of Craftypod wrote a great piece urging crafters to value your work in the marketplace. Kim Werker wrote about how working “for free” has worked for her.

I commented on both Diane's post (here) and Kim's post (here)…but I want to dig into this from a slightly different perspective.

It's all about intention.

Whether you're working for yourself (like Kim when she built CrochetMe) or you're working for a Design Team for another company, your intention will determine the value of your work.

If you're a crafter who loves to make stuff and has no intention from making any money, working on a Design Time in exchange for product might be a dream for you.

But if you, at any point, intend to make money from what you're doing or hope to be paid for your designs, you (whether know it or not) are building a business and a brand.
And if you build your brand (how people in the industry know you) on free work…you can expect to collect a lot more free work.
If you seek out publication or paying design jobs, you will absolutely collect more paying jobs.

Every project you do broadcasts your intention.

And people pay attention to that.
Future customers, partners and fans notice and take note.

Doing free work broadcasts that your intention is to do free work. 

As a potential marketing tool (which is what “building a reputation” is), you can absolutely use free work to spread the word.

But with every free project, double check: is this building MY platform? Or someone else's?

When Kim built CrochetMe, it was her platform. She owned it and she controlled it.
When you give away a free pattern or sample on your blog or newsletter, it's connecting with your customers.

But when you write guest posts for other blogs you're building their platform. However, if their's is much bigger than yours, a simple link at the end of the article might drive enough new traffic to you to be worth it.

But when you design for a company who will use your design for free, you're building their platform. Will they link back to you? Will that drive new people to you or are you driving your people to them?
(hint: if anyone asks you to tweet or FB about something, they are asking for your audience) 

Some things are just for fun

I write guest posts, do joint classes, and contribute to the World Biggest Summit because I love the people who ask me.
Not everything has to be a profit and loss analysis…but something has to be or you'll wear yourself out working for free.

It all comes back to…..

What do you want?

Like I ask at the beginnig of the Map-Making Guide: what's your endpoint? What are you working towards?
Everything else can be judged by that: will this action/project get me closer? Or further away?

And if you're still doubting, just consult this flow chart.

Oh, and I wrote about this before: Should You Do Free?
(obviously I haven't gotten any cleverer when it comes to blog titles, eh?)


And now, two tiny announcement-y things:

  1. A few months ago I offered a special Map-Making Live Help session to the SparklePointers and all the spots got snapped up. I LOVED the work I did with those delightful people, so I've decided to do 5 more sessions.  You can grab yours here.
  2. The Starship is going to close to new Cadets on October 1st.

If you want to get inside this year and enjoy it for the rest of 2011, make sure you sign up before then.
A few reasons to join now:

    • Tomorrow, we have a Holodeck Party. You bring whatever you're dealing with RIGHT NOW and you'll get a dose of smart answers from other craftybiz smarties (and me).
    • Next week we'll have a Starship-only teleclass on getting referrals (with a live chat so you can ask your questions and get superquick answers).
    • Next month I'll be teaching Right People 201, on defining and finding your Right People. We're gonna cover material that's in my new book. If you're in the Starship, you're in the class, no worries if it sells out.
    • In November we'll revisit Holiday Sanity (take a peek at last year's info here).
    • The Starship is helping me write my book by providing me examples and insight…it's like the Council of Elrond for the book.
    • I really wanna hang out with you!
So yep, if you've been thinking about it, jump in here.

5 Comments on Should you work for free?

  1. Kim Werker
    September 13, 2011 at 9:54 pm (8 years ago)

    This is a great point, Tara. It’s related to two things I think are worth exploring more, too: 1) Deciding at the outset how you’ll decide if doing free stuff is helping you make money (if your intention is to build a business), and 2) Saying no when the opportunity presenting itself isn’t the *right* one. Hm. More blogging!

  2. Tara Swiger
    September 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm (8 years ago)

    Yes! Exactly!
    Because “free stuff” could be a very effective marketing technique, so it’s definitely worth figuring out how that’ll work and what you’ll do when you need to say no!

    (My favorite “no” line:* I appreciate the offer, but I need to focus on my paying customers and projects right now. Please keep me in mind when you have a project with a budget.*)

  3. Tara Swiger
    September 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm (8 years ago)

    Yes! Exactly!Because “free stuff” could be a very effective marketing technique, so it’s definitely worth figuring out how that’ll work and what you’ll do when you need to say no!(My favorite “no” line: I appreciate the offer, but I need to focus on my paying customers and projects right now. Please keep me in mind when you have a project with a budget.)

  4. Tara Swiger
    September 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm (8 years ago)

    Hmm. I’m wondering why this didn’t show up in my comments! (and neither did my reply to your reply yesterday) Did you get it via email?