Don't Work For Free


I don’t work for free. I come from that Harlan Ellison school of work. This is America and we are a society of capitalists. There is no value in publicity. It is a false promise.

When a company or a recruiter tries to convince me otherwise, it’s fraud.

I hear stories on a daily basis from people who are asked to work for free.

Basically, an employer or recruiter asks a candidate to solve a real-world problem or create a product in an attempt to impress future employers. Applicants are told that money is one form of currency, yes, but an opportunity to show your portfolio to decision-makers is another form of currency.

And that’s garbage. It’s un-American. It makes me sick.

The only form of currency your mortgage company accepts is cash. Follow that lead.

Alison Green asked if there are contexts where working for free can pay off.

  • If you don’t have any money, you don’t have the luxury to waste time on free work.
  • If you feel compelled to do something, complete the request and sell it to the company’s competitor.
  • Don’t give up your rights. Use your down-time and complete the work and retain ownership of your IP. Reserve the right to keep the product in your portfolio. When you talk to other employers who actually pay money, use this product as a relevant example of what you could do if you were hired as a full-time employee.

I’m a cynical HR professional and I know one thing: if you’re dumb enough to give me a free work product in a desperate attempt to get a job, you are too dumb to work for my company.

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