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Pro Bono - is it worth your time?

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

To many creatives, the thought of working for free brings back bad memories of greedy clients and not feeling valued. But pro bono can be different. Pro bono actually means “for good” and comes from the idea that many good causes are often in great need of design. When we hear words like “exposure” and “future opportunities” it is easy to cringe, but there are a lot of good reasons to consider pro bono that leaves your bank and conscious happy.

pro bono design


  • Opportunity or scam?

  • What’s in it for you?

  • Keep the paperwork

  • Follow your passion

  • Not all pro bono is for free

Opportunity or scam?

First things first. How can you identify if the project at hand is a great opportunity or a waste of your time? The amazing Jessica Hische has created a wonderful infographic to help you decide.

price design

What’s in it for you?

Many creatives use pro bono projects to break in to new markets. This can be useful if you would like to learn more about a certain industry and if it is a good fit for your business.

For example, imagine you create online editorial illustrations but would like to break in to the children’s book space. You find a publisher and create a few illustrations for a new children’s book. The publisher has a lot of experience and teaches you all about printing and how to work with the writer. If these are skills you need moving forward, it can be a great experience and help start off your new portfolio.

Pro bono can also mean collaborations with other creatives. This can be anything from a copywriter and a designer joining forces to create a well designed and written blog to collaborations between Youtube channels. We have classed it as pro bono because you do it for free but it is more similar to a work exchange. Make sure the end result is on brand for all involved and cross promote the work.

Another option is a strict work exchange. Perhaps you need legal help or an office space. If this is an interesting option but you can’t find someone to exchange with, here are 10 work swap sites to get you started.

Keep the paperwork

You probably already have a great contract, proposal and procedure to keep your paying projects on track. The biggest complaint about pro bono projects is scope creep. It is likely that the company you decide to help are not very familiar with the design process and are unaware of how much time changes can take. Be upfront and create clear rules for what the project will entail. Key things to think establish:

  • How long will the project take

  • What is the project goal

  • Does it include any support or revisions

  • Who will be the contact person and what are their responsibilities

  • Who owns the designs once the project is done

Follow your passion

One way to make sure you get something out of the project is to approach an organisation you feel strongly about and see if they need help. This can be anything from you local shelter, support for cancer survivors or a sustainable food community, the choice is all yours. I have found that people who choose to work in charity work are often very connected and it is a great way to get involved in the community.

Not all pro bono is for free

Because pro bono technically means for good, nothing stipulates that it has to be for free. If you feel that a certain cause needs help but you know that they only have a small budget, offering a discount still means you are volunteering some of your time for free for a good cause.

Has pro bono worked for you? Join the discussion on our Facebook group!


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