Oh, where should I start!? I’ve seen this happening all the time around me, it even happened to me a few times and sometimes I really wanted to be more abrupt and say: “Fuck off!” I guess I didn’t because I was trapped in my undying desire to help other people and while some might consider this a sign of weakness I still think it’s the right thing to do for the right kind of people.

I guess because I’m around entrepreneurs and startups all the time, I’m given to witness all kind of behaviors and demands from always-hungry-and-foolish founders. Some are taking this too literally. Here are some of the invoked motives to work for free I heard over the last years, in no particular order:

 

This will be good on your portfolio

I already have the experience needed to judge if something is good for my portfolio or not. The only reason someone, anyone would work for free in this case is because they don’t have (yet) a portfolio.The purpose of my portofolio is to recommend my work to others so they will be motivated to pay for it. Why else would I have it in the first place?

 

This will be big someday

Well, good for you then. But again, when doing outsourcing, the fact that “it will be big” at some point doesn’t really matter to me. Why would it? If it really is a good startup, you don’t have to sell it to me, sell it to an investor.

 

If you’re doing this for free I have other paid projects

Ah, the vague promises. To that kind of reasoning I can reply with only one thing: “Why don’t you pay me for this project and you can get a discount for the next one?”

 

Are you up for the challenge?

Really? I mean, really??

 

Because it is a fun project

I have my own fun projects, thank you very much. But again, thank you for thinking of my free time and a good way to spend it.

 

Be a part of something cool

I’m guessing “cool” is a nice way of saying there is no business plan and “we’re not serious about this at all”.

 

This is easy, it will take you only a few minutes

Yes, maybe, but how can you give a time estimate if you don’t have any experience in the field? Plus, it is a severely underestimate of the experience needed to actually accomplish a task in “a few minutes”.

 

Obviously I’m not considering working for shares/equity as work for free, but this is a dangerous path since there are so few startups that actually succeed. And I guess it also depends on your level of involvement in the startup: whether you’re doing a logo (I don’t think any right-minded founder would give out shares for that, but just saying) or you’re coding the damn thing :). From my experience, serious founders actually value your work/time and would gladly pay you (even a small amount) for your work plus giving out shares if you’re in for the long run.