Students That Freelance

What are the benefits of pro-bono work for student freelancers?

Guest Posts
by: Daniel Francavilla
At any stage in your freelancing career and beyond, you have the opportunity to use your skills for non-profit organizations, charities and social causes. Even as a new freelancer or student, your skills are always in-demand in the non-profit world. This provides an excellent opportunity for you to get exposure – sometimes very significant exposure that leads to several other jobs.

This is often referred to as “pro-bono” work. But what does this mean? The term is short for the Latin “pro bono publico,” which means “for the public good.” It often refers to free services that a “professional provides to poverty-stricken clients, non-profit groups or charitable organizations”.

So, what are the benefits of designing for a cause, working with non-profits, or doing pro bono design work?

Firstly, working for a good cause helps you to make a positive difference, when you may not otherwise have time to do so, as a student. If you have never done design work for clients before, or have never worked with a non-profit organization, freelancing for these organizations and causes is a huge networking opportunity (many supporters, organization board members and the public are involved too, and may also see your work). And of course, this all builds to experience and adds to your portfolio, while helping out.

A list of some of the plus-sides of doing pro-bono work was produced as part of RGD‘s (Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario) Designer’s Guide to Pro Bono Work. This document was created by members of their Ontario Provisional Committee in 2007 to assist designers and non-profits to work together on pro bono projects that benefit the community:

Creativity: It is refreshing and inspiring to work with dedicated staff who believe in what they do.
Networking: Non-profit or charitable organizations’ Board of Directors and other volunteers are great people to network with since some of them are business owners and prospective clients.
Philanthropy: What is better than using your talent and knowledge to help effect change and support something that you believe in?
Portfolio: It is a way to explore areas of design that are not yet prominent in your portfolio and develop creative and innovative new work

Although this is only one resource, and refers mainly to “pro bono” work, it is very relevant to the benefits of Designing for Good – whether it be officially documented for a registered charity or non-profit, or simply for the benefit of society and the greater good in general.

In many cases, school projects are set within unrealistic timeframes and lack real-world connection. Students should always be looking for opportunities to get involved while in school – with formal organizations or other groups, and there are many out there – to create something and practice the skills they are being taught. As a student freelancer, it is simple to use your skills (even as you’re still developing them – because even professionals are constantly learning) for the greater good.

Designer’s Guide to Pro Bono Work is available for download at this link.

For more on Designing for Good, visit