Three Ways to Turn Free Work into Paid Projects

Georgina Laidlaw
Georgina Laidlaw

We’ve talked about some of the main reasons why you shouldn’t do work free. But can you decline a request for free work in a way that generates paid work either now or sometime in the future? I think so. Yes, there will always be not-for-profit organizations and community groups who literally don’t have any money to pay for the services they need. But many clients who want something for nothing turn out to have funds, after all. The only problem is that they just can’t justify spending those funds on this project … yet! Our job is to reverse that perception: to convince them that the funds would be very well spent on your quality, expert services. Saying no to unpaid work shouldn’t mean burning your bridges or putting contacts’ noses out of joint. On the contrary, it should be viewed, as far as possible, as an opportunity to secure a paying client. Here are three ways you can say no to unpaid projects … and maybe get some paid work from them.

1. Explain why you can’t do unpaid work.

Last time, we decided that one of the key reasons why you can’t do work for free is that it can be impossible to prioritize it over, or even alongside, your other paying clients. If your client wants to be treated as well as your other happy, satisfied clients, they’ll need to pay you. This will ensure they can make the necessary demands on your time, get the full red-carpet treatment, and meet their goals for project delivery and quality. It’ll guarantee that they get your best hours of brain-power, rather than your off-hours. It’ll ensure their project gets the expert treatment it deserves. These points make compelling evidence for paying an expert, rather than scrounging to find someone to complete a project in their spare time.

2. Offer to contribute a crucial component.

Okay, so you’re not willing to commit to completing hours of unscoped work for nothing. But can you make a counter-offer to do a small part of the project for payment? In taking this approach, look for opportunities to use your skills in a way that’ll give your client maximum value at a price they can afford. While your client may not be able to pay for an entire website to be developed, for example, they may be willing to engage you to undertake a smaller part of that process — creating wireframes, for example, or testing the design with users. Think laterally, and creatively, about crucial, short-time tasks that will boost the overall quality of the project outcome and earn you some cash.

3. Make a formal offer to do the work.

In many fields of web work, clients have no idea how much services cost. The client who asks for a freebie may simply imagine that they can’t afford what they need, and be too scared to find out actual prices. Alternatively, they may not know what they need, and believe the work to be short and easily completed when in fact it’s complex and detailed. You’ll need to gauge on the basis of your knowledge of the client whether or not it’s worth your time to put together a proposal, or even a document that outlines the services that will likely be involved in the project they’re planning. You might be able to provide ballpark figures or quote the values of other, similar projects you’ve done, if you don’t think this will cause the client to expect their project to cost exactly the same price. Once you get the client talking about services and dollars, you might find they’re more open minded about buying skills — and you’ll already have created an opportunity to present a proposal to them. These are just three approaches you can use to turn unpaid work into appropriately paid projects. What techniques (or troubles) have you encountered in shifting clients’ mindsets from “free” to “paid”? Image
by stock.xchng user ctechs.

Frequently Asked Questions about Turning Free Work into Paid Projects

How can I transition from doing free work to getting paid projects?

Transitioning from free work to paid projects involves showcasing your skills and value to potential clients. Start by choosing projects that align with your skills and interests. Use these projects to build a strong portfolio that demonstrates your abilities. Networking is also crucial. Connect with people in your industry, attend events, and join online communities. This can lead to referrals and job opportunities. Lastly, don’t be afraid to negotiate your worth. Once you’ve proven your skills, it’s important to communicate your value and ask for appropriate compensation.

What are some strategies to find paid projects online?

There are several strategies to find paid projects online. Freelance job platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Workana are great places to start. These platforms connect freelancers with clients looking for their skills. Social media platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn can also be useful for finding paid projects. Join groups related to your industry, follow relevant hashtags, and engage with potential clients. Another strategy is to create a professional website showcasing your portfolio and services, which can attract potential clients.

How can I negotiate my worth for a paid project?

Negotiating your worth involves understanding the value you bring to a project and communicating it effectively. Research industry rates for your services and consider your level of experience and the complexity of the project. Be confident in discussing your rates and be prepared to justify them with examples of your work and the value you provide. Remember, negotiation is a two-way process, so be open to discussion and compromise.

How can I build a strong portfolio to attract paid projects?

A strong portfolio showcases your skills, experience, and the value you can bring to a project. Include a variety of work that demonstrates your abilities and versatility. For each project, provide context about the project, your role, and the results achieved. Make sure your portfolio is easily accessible, either on a personal website or a professional networking site.

How can networking help me find paid projects?

Networking can connect you with potential clients and job opportunities. By building relationships with people in your industry, you can gain referrals and learn about job openings. Networking can also provide valuable insights about industry trends and rates, helping you stay competitive.

How can I use social media to find paid projects?

Social media can be a powerful tool for finding paid projects. Platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter allow you to showcase your work, connect with potential clients, and learn about job opportunities. Use these platforms to share your portfolio, engage with relevant content, and network with industry professionals.

How can I use freelance job platforms to find paid projects?

Freelance job platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Workana connect freelancers with clients looking for their skills. Create a strong profile showcasing your skills, experience, and portfolio. Regularly check for job postings that match your skills and interests, and submit tailored proposals for each job.

How can I ensure I’m paid fairly for my work?

Ensuring fair payment involves understanding your worth and negotiating effectively. Research industry rates for your services, consider your level of experience and the complexity of the project, and negotiate your rates accordingly. Always have a contract in place before starting work to protect your rights and ensure payment.

How can I use my personal website to find paid projects?

A personal website can showcase your portfolio, list your services, and provide a way for potential clients to contact you. Make sure your website is professional, easy to navigate, and highlights your skills and experience. Regularly update your portfolio and consider adding a blog to share industry insights and demonstrate your expertise.

How can I turn a free project into a paid opportunity?

Turning a free project into a paid opportunity involves demonstrating your value and negotiating your worth. Use the free project to showcase your skills and deliver exceptional results. Once you’ve proven your value, discuss the possibility of paid work with the client. Be prepared to negotiate your rates and justify them with examples of your work.