Posts tagged pro-bono

Yes, I am pro bono


(…a cheesy play on words, I know, but I do love U2)   

This month, the Business of Design Online has been discussing the value of working pro bono for design professionals. The most recent post outlined these top benefits for designers:

  • self-promotion
  • networking opportunities
  • portfolio puffing
  • experience
  • “the warm and fuzzies”

Okay so being the rosy-spectacled, hopeless idealist that I am, I was a little disappointed to see no truly altruistic motivations. No “because it’s the right thing to do” justification. But I understand – and not just because I live in capitalist America. Generating a good reputation is important – especially for the self-employed. Pro bono work appears to provide an excellent opportunity to do so.

I hadn’t thought about it this way before, but the work I do for Ballet Fantastique could qualify as pro bono, with a few tweaks. According to Thomas Stephan in his post “Don’t Work For Free Ever Again” the difference between volunteering and working pro bono lies somewhere in performing professional services, within the parameters of a previously agreed upon contract, but waiving the traditional financial compensation. With my work for Ballet Fantastique (where I started as an intern), I haven’t used contracts or developed complicated strategic plans, so Stephan would likely classify my work as volunteerism. 

Working for non-profits and charities has always been something important to me, but not really for any of the above-mentioned reasons. I’ve just felt responsible to use my talents to benefit others. I do believe, however, that it will be important to protect myself as a professional and to make informed, intelligent, mutually-beneficial decisions when considering offering my services pro bono; and to create clear, well-defined guidelines for working with such clients.

Just the other day I was wondering how professionals decide when and for whom to work pro bono, and what sorts of ethical questions arise surrounding these choices. How do you decide whom to charge and whom to not? Are there any regulations on this, either within industry bodies or professional organizations? Please, let me know if anyone has experience here. 

Image courtesy of


    Comments (2) »