is it stupid to volunteer when you could be paid?

(10 Posts)
themapsupsidedown Tue 10-Sep-13 19:11:26

Freelance trainer here, just finished PGCE (teaching adults). Always had good feedback/asked back for more. However, I have a very narrow topic base (don't want to be more specific on public forum) and, for unrelated reasons, confidence/health has taken a real battering.
Rather than waiting for the right opportunity, am thinking about offering myself as a volunteer teacher/trainer, partly to keep my hand in/broaden experience and partly to regain some confidence. But I'm wary of offering skills for free in case I get trapped as 'the volunteer'. So at the moment, not moving any further forward in either direction...can anyone help?

I work as a volunteer at Citizens Advice at the moment, full time and it's in an office where we are pretty much all doing the same job but only some are paid staff.

I am mainly doing it to fill a gap in my C.V, and for the experience. I don't think it's stupid at all, I would rather be seen to be doing something with my time rather than nothing.

WilsonFrickett Tue 10-Sep-13 19:19:16

Hmmm. That's a tricky one, isn't it? I have occasionally worked for free, to get in to a new market, but I don't think I'd ever volunteer in my field, for the reasons you mention. Could you do a free, short-term project? Or ven offer low fees? I just don't think it will be easy to get paid if you've worked for free on any sort of regular basis.

themapsupsidedown Tue 10-Sep-13 19:28:13

Thanks both. Wilson, I get your drift (it's similar to mine). The problem is, the opportunities I'm looking at are voluntary, so they would look askance if I asked them for payment. But I'm stuck in the Catch 20/20 of having good training skills but insufficient subject base. I've tried finding orgs that want you to deliver their stuff - no luck so far...

WilsonFrickett Tue 10-Sep-13 20:07:47

I suppose if you think it will really build your CV - tell you what, I'd do a lot of research and find out which orgs actually do pay for your stuff. And then I wouldn't volunteer for them. I'd volunteer for the people that never pay, then use that as an 'in' for the orgs that do pay. Would that work in your field?

themapsupsidedown Tue 10-Sep-13 21:37:16

Possibly. I would have to be careful about it. I like your idea of offering for a specific project, too. Thanks Wilson. I think I'm having a bit of 'freelancer fatigue' - most likely you won't have this, as you're sufficiently established, but it's taking me a while to get off the ground. Thanks for your advice.

HelloMist Wed 11-Sep-13 11:35:58

I don't think it's stupid either. I don't think you'd get stuck volunteering (if you're strong-willed and not easily talked into staying by the people you're helping). I'm currently volunteering in adult education too, and finding it really rewarding. I think it'd definitely help to build your confidence back up, and get you out there doing something until you're ready to work properly.

My only problem is it's an area I haven't worked in before, and I'm stuck trying to find any paying customers. sad I'm trying to get going self-employed (while still volunteering) but I haven't had much luck so far. The people I've helped voluntarily have had positive feedback, and I know there's a market for my subject, but it's hard trying to reach them.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 11-Sep-13 20:00:14

themap sorry to hear you have been through it a bit, it sounds like it has really knocked you.

I think as long your potential employers don't all speak to each other then you won't become known as themapwhoalwaysworksforfree, so volunteering for one shouldn't be a problem. It sounds like you need something to help get you back in the game as it were.

I have done some free/cheap stuff for the experience/reference/blog fodder.

Re volunteering I'd suggest 2 things:

- Position it very positively to the org "I am looking to develop my freelance experience, so I am looking for a fixed project (as Wilson suggested) which I can use as a case study/reference which I am happy to deliver for you for free". Not saying that you will say to them "I cannot get work, please can I volunteer" but when you are feeling down/fed up it can effect how you come across etc. You need to act like a successful freelancer etc.

- Make the most of the volunteering by: securing a reference, a testimonial etc and then use that when contacting other orgs. If you have a website/LinkedIn make sure they all reflect your 'work' for the organisation. Outwardly I'd try to give the impression that it is work, not volunteering as much as you can.

And as wilson says (if you haven't already) develop a list of contacts for paid work which you can then market to. And you probably need a plan to regularly market to them, to keep you at top of their minds etc.

Fingers crossed the volunteering helps you kick start your freelance career.

themapsupsidedown Thu 12-Sep-13 20:12:50

Margot, Mist and everyone - thank you. It's a lonely and baffling business sometimes as a freelancer -these excellent suggestions are very helpful.
Take care, all

LEMisdisappointed Thu 12-Sep-13 20:17:43

The red cross often need trainers and people with good presentation skills, lots of opportunities and you are doing something useful rather than just working for nowt. I have done voluntary work for both charity and for a friends business - they both had their rewards. Principal benefit for me is that im no longer afraid of spiders

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