Q: Recently I’ve been approached by two different people asking for free/cheap help on video work. Should I do this? Thanks for your quick reply.

David K.


Hey David.

I want to expound on that even more. Should a client ask for a freebee video production at all or is there a scenario where it actually harms the client to ask for a free video ad.


Why You Should NEVER Ask for a Free Video
Here we go. Let me address the later first.
I know that money often is scarce for small businesses. I run one myself. Often this has the consequence that we ask for free services. I think there are parts where receiving a free service or “trial” product is a good and valuable thing. I think this situation changes totally when it comes to advertising and branding.

Your Ad, Your Face
Posting an add is basically putting your company’s or your own face out there. So, making ads that you pay nothing will lead to ads that have the karma of “free”. I think subliminally clients will pick up on that. If you don’t care much about your face to the public this holds a huge risk of diminishing your own self value that can be quickly perceived by your clients and customers. I would not wonder if this comes back and they are asking for “free” stuff in return. And who wants to do business on the basis of “free”, right?

On a second note. There is just no way of producing something of quality, intelligence and most importantly that basically presents your quality product in the right way that it helps to increases sales and puts your company in the best light possible.

Producing ads, any kind of ads takes  a lot of effort and wisdom, how to coney an idea, package it into a short, simple media package and let it work for you. Everybody that says differently has other motives. Everybody can produce a little dinky video especially with todays affordable gear. But an ad that ‘sells’ is very tough to produce.

Don’t Debrand and Bankrupt Yourself
Now the biggest reason why you should not invest in “free” for your ad products is because there is a concept of “debranding”. Debranding is a situation where your brand does not ad positive recognition of your brand but rather creating negative or unwanted emotions about your brand. Under all circumstances you want to prevent such a situation. Not only are you not selling your product. You cause that other people think, speak and act negatively upon your ad message.

But I don’t Have Much Money, What Now?
If you are on a budget and don’t have enough money to produce proper ads and videos the best scenario for you is to do it yourself. Seriously. Use social media and produce the video ads yourself. Yes, yourself.
“But Shmuel, the videos I produce look worse then from a bad video producer.” you might ask. Not really. What happens if you do it yourself and you are not hiding it to your audience they will connect with your message on a close personal level. Because YOU represent your brand. You are passionate and this will convey in the ad. You give your clients insights into your product or service and why you do all of that. But when you bring in any video dude who does it for free it will not look and feel good enough to do the same. His interests in most cases is to get the job done as fast as possible and move on to more profitable clients.

The other thing is if you don’t have the money to produce a cool, branding and selling video rather spend your little money (I’m talking about $5000 or less) and invest it in Facebook or Google ads. Its much more efficient and done the right way you get more for your bug.



I have done a bunch of stuff for free or a reduced fee.

I think to reduce your fee is a different animal and has a different psychology attached to it.
I will rather address the ‘freebee’ situation that comes up so often.

What is In it For Me
So, when you give away your services for free I think you need to ask yourself what is in it for me?
And that is not selfish, its fair to ask this yourself.

If you got an offer to be part of a project that really boosts your own portfolio and therefore boosts the value in the eyes
of your customers or even future customers go ahead and do that. Thats fair and common to do and I have
no reservations for this kind of scenario.

I Will Have a Budget Next Time. Bull…
The other situation that I really stay away because I have experienced it myself is that someone random or
even who likes your work comes forward and asks for a ‘freebee’.
Often this comes with the promise attached: Oh, if I have a budget next time I will certainly hire you for that. You are so talented.

You know what? This is in most cases a lie. And I’m not accusing that person for lying at that moment, I think
in most cases they mean it. But what they forget is as follows:

Clients Do Lie. And they Don’t Know
Lets say you do something for free and in general its not your best “stück” (yes, thats the correct spelling) because there is usually no resources to get the right light or the right camera you want. Now, this ‘client’ is very happy for what he got, right? Hey, he didn’t
pay a dime and therefore he is very happy that you helped him.

But when the day comes and he holds $5000 in his hand. What do you think he is gonna do with it?
What would you do?

What Can I Do with 5 Grand?
Here is the psychology of this. He will think: Hm, David did a good job last time and it didn’t cost me a dime.
Now I have $5000 in my hand. When I hire someone else that charges $5000, he probably must be better
then David because he did it for free and I want something even better.

In essence, once you have established your own value, in this case “free”, from a clients perspective
he wants now “better” since he has more money in his hand then last time.
And when we have more money we usually want more. And why should he pay you now $5000 when you worked for free the last time?
And don’t fool yourself about this here: But Shmuel, we agreed on that when I would work for free I would get the job
when a budget is allocated.

Nope. A client has always the freedom to spend their money as they wish. They will find all kinds of reasons for that. Yes,
for ‘free’ it was a good job but now I need more/better/higher end. Whatever the excuse will be. And its not even coming
from an evil place. This is just how we all work.

Bottom line. Whatever value you put yourself in the first place this is what the client expects from you. I have never had ANYBODY come back to me that I worked for free and now I am in an ordinary client
relationship with them with proper payment or payment at all.

Again, if you can make a feature film for ‘free’ I would do this because it would strengthen my reputation and
my perceived value.

What has been your experience working for free?



  1. Daniel Remer says:

    No one has ever asked me to do a project for free. If they did I would refuse instantainiously and probably add a few words. It is outrageous to ask for a free film. Would you go into a restaurant and ask for a free meal??? If you did it would be considered begging. I don’t work for beggars, I only work for clients. I rarely work for individuals, only organizations or companies. However I have accepted a few jobs for less money than I think they were worth but only because they were subjects that really excited and interested me. In the end money is not the main drive for me, but making good films that I like. And if I like them, then the clients LOVE them, since the standards that I set for myself are generally much higher than those set by my clients (because I am an obsessive perfectionist when it comes to filmmaking). But to work for free… no way. If I was going ot take the time to work for free then I would rather use that time to spend on my won personal film projects.

  2. Jim Ross says:

    Spot on. I used to do free work to build my resume of work. But I did it for companies and foundations that I felt would either get me great exposure or they were worthy such as a charity. And as you pointed out, they never came back with a check in hand at a later date. Later I made the mistake of doing some “cheap” work for a few potential clients all on the promise of “when we have a budget we’ll use you again!” Never happened. All they did was hop from one production house to another giving the same promise.

    The only thing I would disagree with you is that a business should never do it themselves. EVER. Because even if it looks like they have nothing to hide, they are still saying “We’re broke! So we did this ourselves. So we must not be any good at what we do! Don’t hire us!” At least that is my opinion.

  3. Ely Lenik says:

    I’ve been asked for free work a number of times. Most often a friend or a non-profit with no budget. But I don’t think I would do an entire project for free. If it was a cause I really believed in, I may offer my services in a limited way, but to be the “go to” guy for an organization or a friend with no cost more often than not winds up making you into a doormat rather than helpful.

    Also one of the most important things to know about people who ask for free services like this, they have no idea what goes into accomplishing their goal or they wouldn’t as you to do it for free. And therefore they will ask you for things that in their minds are no big deal, but in reality can be time consuming and in the end not really what they wanted.

    All in all, I would steer clear of doing projects pro bono and if you do, make sure they understand the limits of what you are willing to offer for free.

    • Shmuel Hoffman says:

      Ely, I hear you. The issue I came across even if you set borders they get forgotten. Because what borders can you set on a free project?

  4. Martin says:

    Totally agree.
    When companies do something for nothing it is not valued.
    For example, if one company charges more for their product than another, there are some that believe that they are getting better quality as quality costs more money.
    So free is not on at all…….

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  6. Mike says:

    Like everyone else here, we often get requests to produce videos for free. Most of these we do dismiss pretty quickly but not all, and we have acquired some regular paying clients who we initially provided with a free video. I think the key point you make is what’s in it for the video producer? Not every job has to be about financial gain – it could be an opportunity to try out new equipment/techniques, add something valuable to your portfolio, add a big name to your client list…

    We often ask if the prospective client has no budget, is there anything else they can do for us? Can they provide us with a filmed testimonial / website link / other services? We’ll also ask them to cover expenses so we avoid paying to do jobs.

    Agreed that most of the time it’s worth disregarding requests for free work, but it’s a bit closed-minded not to take things on a case-by-case basis and evaluate whether there’s any opportunity there.

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