“Never work for free!”

It’s a tried and true adage of the creative industry. The sentiment is certainly in the right place. You should not just give your work, time, and/or energy away and get nothing in return.

However, as James Bond would say, “Never say never again…”


Being generous can earn you clients

Do you think that your potential clients will like you more if they think you’re thinking about work 100% of the time and only concerned with business? Probably not.

This is why you should find ways to be generous that will help build good will, attract new clients, AND keep you in the minds of your former clients.


It costs you nothing to volunteer for a worthy cause on occasion. Find a charity in your community that you are passionate about and donate your time there. Maybe you go in for an hour every week, or maybe you go in once every few months.

Whatever your schedule will allow you to do so that it doesn’t detract from your business, but people in your community will get to know you. Perhaps your name will be the first one that comes to mind when they think about hiring a photographer.

Don’t use volunteer work as a chance to pitch yourself, though! Do the work, talk to people. If anyone asks what you do, tell them you’re a photographer. Word will spread from there.

Donate your services to a charity

This is different from just straight up volunteering. Find a charity that needs a photographer. Maybe they have an event or a fundraiser coming up, or perhaps they could just use some good pictures to help them spread the word.

This is a photo from a body paint project I did working with breast cancer survivors to raise awareness. The project was later featured by People Magazine and The Huffington Post.

Discuss how they will credit you for the pictures, tag you on social media, etc. – and make it clear that’s all you’re looking for. Just letting people know that you were a part of the project.

Always choose something you genuinely care about – otherwise it will ring hollow and seem like you’re searching for attention.  When people contact you about paying work and mention that they came to you after seeing your work for a specific charity, it helps that you can speak about the cause passionately. If not, they will probably lose interest or think that you were being fake.

And you don’t want that.

Be generous by giving away information

This form of generosity is a little more direct in approaching your potential clients. If you blog, post advice or tips or stories that your potential clients would find helpful!

Marketing gurus usually refer to this as ‘value added content’ – but it’s a more subtle way of keeping potential clients thinking about you, or to lure in new potential clients. You don’t get paid directly for doing it, but it builds up good will and helps others.

Give them the benefit of your knowledge and experience. Show them that you’re generous with your time, using it to put together something helpful for them. It will make them feel special, and that you truly care about your clients. And hopefully you do, and not just because they pay your bills.

You’ll feel better about yourself and your business

You might find that after donating your time or services to a charity, you just feel good.

Altruism can be it’s own reward, and if you end up getting more work out of it in the long run, hey, that’s just a bonus.

You will have made someone’s day a little bit better in some way, whether you’re serving lunch at a soup kitchen, taking photos of cancer survivors, or writing an article that will help couples navigate the world of planning their wedding.

How do you give back to your community? Tell me in the comments section!

Support The Nerdy Photographer

get the nerdy photographer newsletter

Subscribe to The Nerdy Photographer Podcast

Podchaser - The Nerdy Photographer Podcast