How Best To Say “I Don’t Work For Free”

Whether it’s a friend, family member or potential client, it’s always an uncomfortable moment when you have to explain to them that “I don’t work for free”.

You want to be nice but you also want to get the point across, loud and clear.

In this article, I’m going to advise you on how best to do just that, as well as explain how working for free isn’t always a bad idea.

How To Say “I Don’t Work For Free”

How you approach this really depends on whether you still want to work with this particular client or not, as the mere thought of working for nothing may be enough for some freelancers to run for the hills.

In any case, I would simply suggest to the client that you no longer do business for less than a certain amount, like this…

“I would love to help you but I am no longer in a position to take on any new projects for less than [$X amount].”

Mike Walters

That’s all it takes.

If you’re still interested in working with this client though, you can try to manoeuvre the conversation towards having the client reiterate their current struggles and goals, highlighting the importance [to them] of hiring you for your paid services.

You increase the chances of turning them into a paying client if you can position your fees as being only a fraction of their potential returns (e.g. the value of them acquiring one client) – although the chances of this happening are slim.

Is working for free worth it?

Contrary to what most business people will tell you, I’m actually a big advocate of working for free, provided that you do so on your own terms.

At the very least, you should be the one to put the idea forward and not the client.

The main reason why you would work for free is to gain either legitimate exposure, new skills or both.

Exposure for me came in the form of video testimonials which I could use on my website, social media and paid ads.

Working for free is something that I’ve personally done on quite a few occasions and it often worked very well for me, especially at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.

It definitely sped up the process of building my portfolio, as well as giving me the hands-on experience of working with clients.

In fact, the work I did voluntarily was more enjoyable than the work I did for cheap. The clients were definitely easier to work with that’s for sure!

On that note, it’s worth mentioning that you should only work with clients that you’re really excited to work with. Nobody benefits from you dragging your heels on a project that you resent.

In the best case scenario, if you do a great job and make yourself indispensable to the client, they may hire you for a paid position.

When working for free makes sense

As already mentioned, working for free should only be done on your terms. If the client is the one proposing that you work for nothing, then I would avoid them at all costs.

If however, you have the opportunity to work with an individual or brand that will leave quite a big impression on your future clients, then you should maybe reconsider before flat-out saying “No.”

Especially if this individual or brand already has a big influence over your ideal clients [on social media].

99% of the time, your “free” work should result in a testimonial from the client. It’s preferable that this testimonial also be recorded as a video, for added social proof.

The only time where a testimonial or review wouldn’t be necessary would be if you weren’t doing it for the recognition, such as working for a charitable organization that you were eager to help out with.

How to find “FREE” clients

If you’re interested in finding new clients to add to your portfolio, and you’re happy to do some free work to speed up the process of acquiring positive testimonials, then here is what you do:

  • Create a list of individuals that have a strong influence over your ideal clients
  • Reach out to them via social media or email
  • Be honest and tell them that you’d like to offer your services, for free, in return for a video testimonial
  • Do a great job and give them a simple guide on what to say in the review

In following this process, you can accumulate a wealth of relevant testimonials that your future prospects can go through and be inspired by.

With them seeing familiar faces of people that they follow [on social media], it will be far easier to convince them that you are the right person to work with – for a price 😉


If you’ve just started your business and you need to add to your portfolio quickly, then I would definitely recommend reaching out to individuals that you would like to work with and offering them some free work – in return for a video testimonial.

Have any questions or feedback on this post? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses

  1. I wasn’t sure at first but I see your point now. Working for free should be under our terms and receiving something in exchange that makes our brand a bit more “popular” or recognizable in our niche.

    Good strategy to do in a cautious way jeje.. thanks!

    1. If done strategically, working for free can be far more valuable for your business than any cheap work.

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