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Why you should not work for free
We've all heard the stories before. Start-ups promising a percentage of the revenue to their developers, friends asking you for your services without offering any money in return, graphics designers that want to get their name out by providing companies with free artwork, things like that.
I'm here to tell you why in most cases, it's an awful idea to work for free. First of all, everyone has expenses. Food isn't free, electricity isn't free, water isn't free. Having and taking care of pets isn't free. You need some kind of monetary gain in order to sustain yourself, your hobbies, and quite possibly your family as well.
Promises of a share of the revenue at a later date are vague and quite possibly never going to happen. Lots of start-ups offer people a job only to pay them at a later date when the revenue starts rolling in but let me tell you something: That's not how the world works. As a startup company, you need to have a certain cash injection/starting capital in order to realize your idea. You can't just ask people to do it for you, for free. The term start-up shouldn't mean that you can pay people less than average or ask them to do things for free. You pay them like any good employer should because those people, like I said above, need to sustain themselves. The worst part about all of this is that some people actually fall for this. They like the idea the start-up has to offer. But they fail to realize that said idea has probably been thought of before and failed.
Your best bet to a sustainable lifestyle is to make sure that you get paid at the end of the month/week or even quarterly. That's the whole gist of this story. Companies are taking advantage of you, your generosity, and your malleability. The thing about working for startups is that they'll probably require you to work odd hours, sometimes adding up to more than 50 hours a week. You have to ask yourself the question of whether 50-hour workweeks are worth it in the end. You're not making any money, simply the promise of money, whereas you could be working for a company that will pay you correctly and on time.
There's a difference though, between companies asking you to work for free and friends. It's harder to say no to friends, because they're your friends after all and they'd probably do the same for you, right? Wrong. Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't spend an hour or two to help a friend who's in need, but if they're asking you to do unreasonable things that take up multiple days or weeks, ask yourself if they're really friends or just looking to take advantage of your generosity. Lots of 'friends' would be willing to take advantage of you simply because they don't realize how damaging their requests can be. They might take you for granted.
Then there's the 'working for free to get your name out there. It usually doesn't work that way, granted in some cases this does work, but what getting your name out there really means is that whenever your future employer calls up the place you helped out for free, they might be inclined to tell your new employer about you working for free, which means your new employer could ask you to spend overtime on some projects that will go unpaid. The same goes for companies that ask you to do unpaid overtime. In most cases, if you accept the unpaid overtime, this means that they're now aware that you're willing to do more cheap/free labor for them.
Don't get me wrong though, there are some cases where working for free isn't a bad thing. It's called charities. What are your thoughts on this subject?