Should You Ever Work for Free?

A company wants me to do some online marketing work for them…  In return I would get commissions on the improvements in sales generated by the business. I.e. they want to pay me only on the upside.

I currently work 100% on commission as an insurance broker. However the line on the Internet between marketing and sales is blurry. When you are an online marketer, you are in sales, you just don’t usually speak to people as much. The work would give me experience that I could point to when applying for jobs like it. I am experienced in this area an I believe I could do the work and hopefully make a difference.


  • I currently work on 100% commission.
  • With the exception of the online aspect, this new work would be 100% commission, so, no change in the type of work I’ve signed on for.
  • The new work is online marketing, not in-person selling.
  • I do not have a better alternative right now…
  • That said, any company will hire you to do work for free only on upside. There is zero risk to the company. 


  • Experience: The new work could provide relevant experience for my resume.
  • Relevance: It’s in an area I’m interested in… Marketing, technology, e-commerce, B2C and insurance.
  • Potential recurring revenue: If it works, it could provide recurring revenue for me in the event of the worst case scenario (i.e. I am not able to find another higher paying job that I’m a good fit for) – the recurring revenue aspect is what attracted me to insurance in the first place.
  • Budget: They’ve offered a small budget for the project. So there are some minor resources.


  • Failure: It might not work.
  • A lot of work: It’s not an overnight process. It will require a lot of effort.
  • Trend is down: The business’ sales are currently trending downward. Meaning that it could take a long time to turn the ship around.
  • Competition: Highly competitive… Then again, what isn’t?
  • Alone: No team to work with… I’m on my own establishing the strategy, executing it, and hopefully getting paid as a result. I’m
  • No ownership: I don’t own equity in the business.

Reading all of the above it seems like not such a great deal. I don’t have an alternative right now, other than to not do it. Building an incremental business over time appeals to me.

However, there is risk in this deal to me, but very little if any risk for the company.