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The High Value of Working for Free

by Alaina Alexander

At the beginning of your career, it can be difficult to gain valuable experience.  Few employers/clients want to give a beginner a chance. It's the typical employment vicious circle: You need experience to get a job, but you can't get a job without experience.

Working free or unpaid gigs can give you a great view of the creative arts industry. It 's also a way to build your resume and get solid references. Generally, you will have little trouble finding  an unpaid gig. For this reason, you must be very selective about the type of unpaid gig that you accept. 

Generally, there are two types of unpaid gigs:


Usually, you have to commit at least 15-20 hours to the project or company. This set up can work if you have a paying night gig. However, if you are an 8-5'er this set up may not work well, unless the unpaid gig has weekend hours.


 Generally, you only have to commit  yourself to a weekend a month or less. The upside to this set up is that it doesn't interfere with paying gigs. However, sometimes it's difficult to get the hands on experience or to get valuable face time with potential employers/clients.

Things to bring to the gig:

The following tips will help you get the most out of working unpaid gigs:

Working for Free: My story

Nine months after college graduation, I found myself working as an unpaid intern on the independent  television show Let's Bowl! 

I was put  in charge of green room traffic, which meant that I spent a great deal of time replenishing the food table and shepherding actors.

  After working on "Let's Bowl",  I made invaluable contacts, gained a solid employment references and lasting friendships.