Do you often find yourself working for free in an effort to obtain more prestigious assignments?
Many web designers work for free to build up their portfolios or and to try and secure new clients. This form of doing work for free is termed as “free pitching”.
Many clients have this habit of inviting design samples from multiple web design agencies or individual web designers without ever intending to pay for the samples. They say they will pay when/if they have accept your work.
Every sort of work requires time; if you spend a few hours creating a sample design then during that time you are not earning. Of course one can argue that you may end up earning a lot more once/if your sample is accepted and this would make up for the time lost creating the free sample. The problem here is, first of all you are never sure from how many web designers your potential client is inviting free samples from, and whose design they will finally accept, and even if your design is accepted you’ll be setting a wrong trend for your future web projects – as most clients will now be expecting free samples from you.
Free pitching is considered ethically wrong by most web designers for a reason: it undermines your abilities and time, and it sets a wrong precedence for the other web designers who don’t believe in resorting to shortcuts in order to build up their portfolios.
But what if you are a new entrant and don’t have a single design to showcase on your portfolio page? My personal suggestion is that do some designs for some non-profit organizations (NPOs) — there are plenty of NPOs that require excellent web designers like you but don’t have sufficient funds. Do your best there so that you can include those designs in your portfolio to get professional work, without free pitching.
It’s a misconception that new or even experienced designers have to often work for free. It may take a bit longer, but you can create mockups and put them on your own website as sample designs and let your prospective clients to go through those and hire you only when they are satisfied with you samples and then charge them the standard rates. Otherwise avoid those clients that want free work from you because it shows that even if they give you a bigger projects they will never respect your time.
Further reading on free pitching by John Frostell.