work-for-free

This can be a tough industry to get started in. A lot of business owners aren’t even aware that virtual assistants exist, offline experience doesn’t always translate to working online, and you may feel like you’re caught in a Catch-22, with no one willing to give you a chance until you can demonstrate that you already have clients.

That might lead you to consider working for low or even no pay, just to gain experience and testimonials. But should you do it?

I asked this question on the Facebook page, and from the responses, it seems that working for low or no pay is a common strategy. Not only that, but most VAs and those who hire them seem to expect it. Here’s some of the comments:

Yes they should. As with most jobs, pay is commensurate with experience . The more you know, the more experience & skill – the more you make. I would even go so far as to suggest new VA intern for free to learn.

Traci Knoppe of  www.TraciKnoppe.com

I put my time in at places like elance, odesk, scriptlance and guru. I remember working for $5/hr my first gig or two and yes, I did feel like I was worth more but I also learned a few valuable lessons for time management, how to communicate with my client properly and a few other things that were very helpful in the long run. So, if you change your mindset and kind of think of it like on the job training, you still get paid while you learn but it is a work in progress.

Melanie Bremner of www.MelanieBremner.com

I’ll be honest – when I first started out I did two different, unpaid internships as a way to learn about blogging and copywriting. I consider both of them to be among the most valuable learning experiences I’ve had, and I would absolutely do that all over again, if given the opportunity as a new VA.

Reasons to Consider Working for Free

There are plenty of good reasons you might want to work for free, such as:

  • Experience – to learn a new skill or try out a new software.
  • Testimonials – those first ones can be tough to get, but an hour or so of free work is a good trade
  • Bartering services – speaking of trades, bartering for services can be a win/win for everyone involved

When You Should NOT Work for Free

It’s also true that in some situations, working for low or no pay is not a good career move. For example:

  • When you have an already established business and doing so would take away from higher paid work
  • When there will be no opportunity to turn the experience or client into a better paying gig

If either of these is true, then definitely pass on the “opportunity,” because there are far better uses for your time.

What about you? Would you work for very low or no pay? Have you? Share your experiences in the comments. 


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