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One thing I have noticed is that many successful web designers and other consultants do a certain amount of charity work on an ongoing basis. Given that many of these do not need further portfolio development of this sort, the benefits must go well beyond merely building portfolios.

What avenues do I have as a freelancer to take charity work and use it to drum up additional business? Are there ways to leverage charities to make new business contacts or otherwise greatly improve business presence?

Edit: By charity work I mean either doing the the work free of charge or at a steep discount.

  • Could you clarify when you say "charity work" if you mean that you know that the consultants are doing work pro bono or if you simply mean they are doing work for charitable organizations? Some charitable organizations are very well funded and good at marketing and will pay "normal" rates for such work. So, it would be helpful to clarify if your question is specifically about donating your time. – David Ravetti Jun 6 '13 at 2:02
  • Either donating time or offering steep discounts. Clarifying to include that. – Chris Travers Jun 6 '13 at 2:16
  • In the past I have found that charity work was very useful for networking and further building professional relationships. – Heather Wing Jun 8 '13 at 22:03
  • This answer has info about where to find non-profits that are looking for website help: freelancing.stackexchange.com/a/471/159 – codewaggle Jun 27 '13 at 17:01
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First of all, even if a web designer have big portfolio, charity works can still be very valuable position. If you have mostly made internet sites or commercial portals with only a little part visible to not-logged users, charity/non-profit organizations' portals are usually open to everyone, so they are also more available for potential clients. Doing something for well-known non-profit organization is also a big plus. Imagine you can say you've done even small part of Wikipedia website!

If you do some sites to non-profit organizations, you send a signal, that you are web designer not only for money, but you really enjoy what you are doing. People who are doing something only for money wouldn't do it for free, only passionate will. A passionate is much better webmaster than the others!

And there are not only financial motivations. Doing something non-profit gives you satisfaction that you have helped other people. It is also something new after working with clients who were changing demands 10 times a day, and everything analysing with criteria, how much money will they earn on it. Usually if you do something for non-profit organizations, you have much more freedom in designing the site as you would like to.

  • Part of having more freedom with smaller non-profits is that they typically are not very technically savvy and do not have on-staff technical people, so they rely much more on the expertise of the consultant. If you have such expertise that can be immensely rewarding compared to working for organizations and individuals who are more technically savvy (or think they are) and tend to micromanage consultants. – David Ravetti Jun 6 '13 at 2:10
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A potential way to take on pro-bono work would be to offer to redesign local businesses' sites, particularly shops that you visit frequently (bonus points if you know the owner). In some cases, the business may have a website with...inconsistent quality, and especially nowadays, having a good web presence can be a marketing difference-maker.

It might be wise to only do one or two businesses total, and only one at a time, depending on your workload. Start with businesses that already have their own website, just so the owner would not have to take on additional expenses for web hosting.

As a note, this may depend partially on where you live (rural vs urban). but in either case, if you can make a good impression, the business owner may refer other local businesses to you, which helps you. And even if you don't get referrals, you've still helped the community, which feels good.

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I help out at a startup incubator. It offers an excellent opportunity to work with products and ventures in very early stages. I lend a hand with anything from graphic design to development.

You meet exciting people with a lot on the line. Great for your local economy. Landing an internship could be a fun way to contribute.

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