We are living in a very pragmatic world and the capitalism system taught us that everything has a price and almost nothing is for free. Fortunately, not all of us are so addicted to this idea, there are people that have as the main scope in life to help other fellows. The huge majority of us are situated in between positions, not very avaricious to avoid any help but also not so altruist to give everything we have. The web designers are normal people (maybe too dependent on Internet) and respect the same pattern, from time to time they work on project expecting no payment, the so called pro bono work.
Some designers consider these projects a waste of time while others are really delighted to help other people. Pro bono work is totally different from working for some people that are avaricious and don’t want to pay, usually it consists in making websites for non-profit organizations or for activists groups for environment and so on. Is this kind of work useful for a designer, should he realize these kinds of projects?
The problem is subjective, is strictly depending on the own beliefs of each one… I am an adept of pro bono work but it must be an exception and not a rule in your daily schedule. In fact, I divided the types of work of a designer into three major categories:
- Effective work, when you are accomplishing various tasks for clients that are paying you;
- Individual work, when you are training your skills;
- Pro bono work, when you are working on a client project but you don’t have any financial reward.
The first two categories are mandatory, the first category is mandatory for paying your bills and the second one is to sharpen the skills to realize better other projects…in fact also for the money. The last one…well, it’s necessary and sometimes it brings unexpected results.
- Freedom to create whatever you want
When working with clients, their requirements are very important and some of them are almost forcing you to do some things even though you are sure that these aren’t necessarily or don’t improve the overall design. It’s a difficult situation, but as long as they are paying for, you could understand them.
Making a pro bono project surely will let you more freedom for your creativity, I don’t think that could be someone to interfere so much when he/she benefits for free by your work. Personally, I consider the pro bono idea the perfect type of work for the newbies. It differs from your self-preparation, when you don’t have an objective feedback, but also it has many differences from the client work when you should satisfy the tastes of the clients and any mistake means money. (I don’t say that pro bono work is less qualitative but there is no profit involved…).
- (Un)expected marketing
Pro bono works suppose you don’t expect any advantage from the respective project but it doesn’t mean that you will avoid an advantage from. I consider that is normal to let people know that a project was accomplished by you and why not, give them a contact opportunity. Therefore, you never know when an individual simply fell in love with your website and asks you to design for him. In conclusion, from time to time is welcomed to be a good person.
- A good image inside the community
The web designers are very communicative persons; usually they have many friends which are always great. Definitely, by making some pro bono work you will gain more respect and appreciation from the relatives and friends and, in some cases, from the entire community. Much more, some designers are welcoming this kind of work and will appreciate your attitude. There is redundant to say that people will help unconditioned when you need their help. Keep in mind that we are human beings and not only web designers and the rest of people!
- Another precious item of your portfolio
Every employer asks for previous experience or past accomplished projects but when you say that your entire portfolio consists in student project the chances of being hired are lowered considerable. Instead, a well done pro bono project may represent a plus on your resume, therefore why don’t give it a chance!
- Making some pro bono work will help to accommodate in "real life"
This tip is very useful for the amateur ones or for students. No matter how much someone studied in school, the contact with the clients, with the reality and the pressure of the deadlines creates a very complex climate that scares the newbies. Making some pro bono works assures a better transition, I highly recommend even during the studies to have some projects finished. It’s great to collaborate with people and not teachers, to realize the first projects without high pressure and not having clients from hell…in fact, even if is totally unfair you may give up in case that those who you are helping are too demanding.
This is my opinion about pro bono work, it will be great to know also your opinions about, so please use the comment form!