The 'Test Trap': When to Say No to Unpaid Freelance Work
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There are several reasons why people consider unpaid freelance work. Those new to freelancing may think that they need to build up experience and a portfolio. Even seasoned freelancers sometimes consider doing unpaid work in the hopes of breaking into a niche area.
However, some "test assignments" are borderline scams. It's usually exploitative to expect someone to work for free.
Completing a free 'test assignment,' that's 'testing' several other freelancers is giving too much power to someone who's making money off your expertise. However, at times a quid-pro-quo agreement is in order, such as working for experience or exposure.
Other ways to build up a portfolio includes starting with small, quick jobs on gig-finding sites instead of unpaid freelance work. In addition, building up testimonials and customer feedback gives evidence of your skills.
Some companies ask freelancers to submit test assignments out of ignorance. However, freelancers can use creative ways to convert unpaid work requests into paid gigs.
For example, when a client approaches you for an unpaid SEO opportunity, identify their websites strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. Then, during a short phone call, you can review your findings without providing deliverables for free.
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