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Should a Junior Developer Work for Free to Get Experience?

October 10, 2023
October 18, 2023
Episode Number:

You can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job - a classic problem for many beginners across several industries. This problem also plagues web developers as junior devs are left handing out hundreds of applications sometimes failing to get an interview let alone a job. For some, the opportunity to work for free will come up as a low barrier to entry to get some experience, but this move is controversial. Not only are you missing out on money, but you're also providing value to someone else's business for free. Working for free with nothing but experience is nothing new though, as unpaid internships are apart of some college and university programs across many different degrees. In this episode, Matt and Mike discussed whether a junior developer should work for free to get work experience, or if they should wait until a paid opportunity arrives.


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Who’s in This Episode?

Show Notes

What you'll learn in this episode

  • Our thoughts on whether a junior developer should work for free to get experience
  • Ways to get experience (ie Open Source)
  • Open Source versus Free Client Work

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  • "You need experience to get a job, but you can't get a job without experience"
  • Some opportunities will come up to work for free to get experience
  • Should you stand fast on your worth and only work for money? Or does it make sense to work for free?

Pros of working for free (client work)

  • Get experience with minimal stakes for both you and your client 
    - They're not paying, they know you're a beginner
  • Opportunity to get technical and social (professional) experience
  • Work with a team (gaining experience)
    - Social
    - GitHub
    - collaboration of ideas
    - meetings (etiquette and representing/presenting yourself)

Cons of working for free (client work)

  • Even if you're a beginner you do bring a monetary value to your client (that's why they're trying to hire you for free)
  • Easy to get taken advantage of 
  • Difficult to transition from free to paid (unless its a planned internship) at the same employer
  • Client may not be invested in what you're building
    - They may never deploy to production
    - Lack of feedback on your work
    - They need the site, they don't want it

Open-Source versus free client-work

  • Open-Source is seen almost like charity work in the eyes of some employers
  • You can work solo or in a team
    - Get familiar with coding at your own pace and environment

Should you ever work for free?

  • [Discussion based on aforementioned pros and cons]