From my own personal experience, I have often worked for no fee under one or more of the following conditions:
1. Doing the project gives me something I really want. In those cases I feel I am using those situations to my advantage not the other way around. I keep track of my primary goals and see if this opportunity serves some of those. Frequently my goals are to gain experience or to get my foot in the door or do something new.
2. If I am excited about doing the job more than I care about being paid for doing it. That occurs when it is a project I love, involves people I really like, sounds like a personal challenge and/or it is for some greater good.
3. It sounds like fun. I have always placed great importance on trying out new things, having wild adventures, accumulating great stories. I never want money (or the lack of it) standing in the way of things that could delight me.
HOW I DO WHAT I WANT AND STILL PAY THE BILLS
I started out without connections or much money. I didn’t go to college so I consider many things I get to do as some form of tuition. I believe my enthusiasm for jumping into adventures without limiting a lot of them because of money has become WHY I ended up making a lot of money in the long run (and having a great time along the journey). My history has been to support myself with a current job (often not what I fully want to be doing) and use that money to support myself. I then use that as my base of operation to volunteer for things more closely aligned with my next set of dreams and goals.
By not making it about paying my bills at that particular moment I create the freedom for myself to take on things on a voluntary basis that I probably would never have had access to if I set up a financial line in the sand of myself.
MY WILD ADVENTURES
And because of this approach I have been a record producer, talent agent, screenwriter, film director, live show director, TV executive producer, blogger, lecturer, writer, show producer, show creator, dancer, exhibit curator, lyricist, music video creator, concert producer, music supervisor, curb number painter, songwriter, collector, charity event organizer, actor, flower salesman, script supervisor, investor, editor, magician, record executive, usher, researcher, manager, charity volunteer, graphic novel author, entrepreneur, cheese vendor, promoter, tour guide, party planner, music editor, song producer, owner of a talent agency, mentor, author, roller coaster expert, documentarian, guest speaker, expert on how to make money, and a bunch of other stuff I have allowed myself to do and explore.
I DO IT MY WAY/YOU DO IT YOUR WAY
It is fine if others have different perspectives on this. We all have different lives, priorities, styles, situations and approaches.
You do you. I am DEFINITELY doing me. (the photo is of me as an 8mm filmmaker in high school)