Pro Bono Projects
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Know the Freelancing Site Rules
Many freelancing sites have rules against offering to do work for free. These policies exist both to protect freelancers against being exploited, and to protect sites from not being paid for the valuable work they do of allowing clients and contractors to meet. Unfortunately, they also prevent you from donating your time to a client whom you feel deserves it.
The best way to deal with these rules is not to do the work for free. Do it at a reduced cost, or offer to do extra work that you don’t charge for. Remember that nobody comes to a freelancing site expecting to find someone who’ll work for free. Charities also expect they’ll have to pay to get work done, even if they are hoping to get it at a reduced price.
The fact that you’re donating your time or working for a reduced price doesn’t lessen your obligation to do good work and to behave in a professional manner. The recipients of your efforts are likely to be grateful, and the chances of complaints are generally lower than from clients paying “full price”. But remember that the point here is giving: if you do the work for half price but only put in half the effort, you’re not really doing pro bono work at all. You’re just compromising your integrity.
If you do pro bono work and tell other freelancers about it—especially on public forums where most people are anonymous—expect to be criticized. There are some folks who think that anyone who does work for less than “market rates” (as they define them)—for whatever reason—is a detriment to the freelancing industry. These sentiments are sometimes well-intentioned, born of concern that you might be exploited. Other times they are driven simply by selfishness: the critic only cares that your lower bid “cheated” him or her out of a job or “led to lower rates in the industry”.
Remember that we all act in what we feel are our own best interests: we take actions that will help us achieve goals or satisfaction, either in the short term or the long term. It’s perfectly valid to decide that you would rather forego some money for the good feeling that you get by being a positive contributor to society, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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