Why “No Free Work” is a Wrong Advice According to Paula Scher


If you are a freelancer or a creative professional, many people would ask you to work for free. And in contrary to so many advices you can read online about "no free work", Paula Scher, a female partner at Pentagram, shares the reason why this advice does not apply to freelancers.

Paula Scher offered her advice at the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) conference in Las Vegas on Oct 17:

"The point of working for free is not so much to give things away but to take things back," she said during a talk to some 1,200 design professionals in the audience. "And giving something away sometimes gives you so much back. And I don't just mean fame and reputation, but the way you feel about doing it. And it's your choice-you control that, not the client."

Scher is a 68-year old American graphic designer and the first female partner at the world's largest independent design consultancy, Pentagram, is also the name behind the world's most popular brands including CNN, Tiffany & Co, MoMA, Citibank, The Public Theater, and Shake Shack.

Her advices seem in contradictory to the 'no free work' advices and theories of many but her goal here is not to work to literally not get anything out of it but in order to gain something back, to gain control and leverage, as she would say. "If there's a not-for-profit client that comes along and wants you to work for them for very little fee, you're better off working for free," said Scher. "If they pay you that very little fee-which to them is a lot of money-they'll be as enormous of a pain in the neck as the client who pays you the big fees. If you offer to do it, you're in control."

 As a result for not charging her clients, Scher was able to take full control of her projects and had a full creative freedom. This is the principle that paved her way to land a seat on the 11-member Design Commission which reviews proposals for public art and monuments in New York City.

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