How to decide whether to do unpaid work

I left school at 16 and since then have been working as a freelance theatre technician. I have worked under several employment contracts with various organizations as well during this time.

Whilst I was finding my feet in the industry I was always approached about doing "free work" for "my benefit" and portfolio- much in the same way that musicians are asked to play for free.

People offering this sort of work will always dress up the opportunity to look beneficial to you. My advice is this: take a step back, brake down the opportunity, and work out if it really is going to benefit you. Here are some tips to work out if a free job really is worth doing.

My areas of consideration are:

What is the physical cost to me- i.e. how much is it going to cost for me to travel, live, and feed myself for the duration. Is this cost out weighed by the benefit to me?

What are the press opportunities- how well known is the company, and how well will it be publicized? Is MY name going to be promoted because of it, and will it lead to other work?

Will I learn anything from it- are there other professionals working on the event or are you just being used as free labor?

Will the opportunity develop- will the company hire you for paid work in the future; will you be working in a new environment with a different set of contacts → “business card opportunities”

Unfortunately every opportunity is different, and every candidate is likely to be at a different stage in developing their career so will want different things from an opportunity. Hopefully by thinking about an opportunity in the way I have laid out above you will avoid being taken for granted in a day and age where everyone wants something for free.