Why You Should Give Away Your Design Work for Free

Why You Should Give Away Your Design Work for Free

This morning I got coffee with my good friend Michael Yoder. He's a hardworking, charismatic freelancer who helps people start podcasts. 

 Michael's the dude on the far right. Terry (left) is cool too, but we didn't get coffee today.

Michael's the dude on the far right. Terry (left) is cool too, but we didn't get coffee today.

Alright Michael, your free publicity is over. I'm not going to talk about you anymore so you can stop reading. You selfish narcissist. 

Here's why our conversation is relevant: we spent the morning chatting about how to get people to care about what you do. I've been helping clients doing this for awhile and realized that I need to share some advice on getting specifically design work. I think I can say this. Right now I'm not accepting freelance for the next few months because, well, things are good, and I get a healthy amount of buzz. 

So here it is. The best advice I have:

1. Give stuff away

This is an article from fast company about the early days of Jones Soda, and the tips in here are pristine. This article is from 2005, aka the Mesozoic era of the internet. There are no pictures in this article because at this point Pangea still hadn't separated. But tape your eyes open and read all 859 words because Jones Soda built a brand on basically zero advertising budget, and their advice is gold. In summary, this is what you need to do:

GIVE AWAY AS MUCH STUFF AS YOU CAN.

 This is a free wallpaper you can download on my website.

This is a free wallpaper you can download on my website.

This is why I make free wallpapers and give them away on my website. It's such an easy way to get people to care about what you do. Free wallpapers, desktop images, reaction gifs, you name it. Let people download your stuff and use it in whatever they want. And encourage people to remix your content. Let anybody on the planet download your photos, digitally fart on them, and re upload them to tumblr as unfunny memes. The next tip?

2. Give more stuff away

I'm serious about this. Just let people download whatever. I'm including PSDs in future downloads that I give away. Because it doesn't matter if it gets uploaded to some shoddy stock photo website and someone makes money off of it. 99% of people are going to think it's really cool that you're giving them free stuff. They're going to tell their friends. They're going to realize that it feels awesome to just get something for free. 

 

I run this webcomic called Potato Dad and it's just my nice, free little way of trying to make people laugh. It's resulted in a ton of illustration jobs. Previously I tried branding myself as an illustrator and people didn't really think about me when they needed work. But after doing this free comic every week, people started hitting me up for illustration gigs. And now I have plenty of illustration work. Nice.

 

My final, best piece of advice:

3. Charge money for your content

Just kidding. Give it away.

This guy Mike Winkelman, aka Beeple (website here) gives away a ton of content.

 

 Look at this shiz. Look at it!!!

Look at this shiz. Look at it!!!

He lets you use his mind-blowing, best-in-the-world visuals for any project. Absolutely free. You can download anything from his vimeo, use it in a commercial, and not pay a dime. He wants you to do this!! I use his loops all the time.. 

 

 

 

 

 

And now Mike does work for people like American Idol and Nicki Minaj. And it's so good for his image. Idiots like me write about him on their blogs, link to his free stuff, and build his SEO for him. Genius!

In some scenarios, it's worth it to do free client work too. Sounds insane, I know. But I want to challenge your knee-jerk reaction to free work: sometimes it's good to do something just because the thing is worth doing. It might be for a client. It might be for yourself. But work leads to more work. When you wake up every day for 10 years and make art that you want to make, eventually people will pay you to do it. It worked for Beeple, it works for me, and it can work for you. Find the work you want to do. Do it well, do it often, and eventually people realize you're worth paying for that thing.

Or don't. It's your life. E-mail me if you want to get coffee and show up in my blog. hello@zacharytnelson.com

 That's all, folks.

That's all, folks.

 

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