No One Cares How Much You’re Paid

I hear and learn interesting things from UX job coaching mentees all the time.

“I have 3 projects to include in my portfolio, but only 1 of them was paid.”

This assumes that unpaid projects are not as valuable as paid ones. And it makes some designers feel that unpaid projects aren’t worth including in their UX portfolios.

Not true.

Hiring managers and UX directors don’t care. The only reason they’ll know whether a project is paid or not, is if you tell them.

A couple reasons to drop the “paid vs non-paid” label on your project work altogether:

  • Makes hiring managers wonder what is paid vs not paid for the rest of your portfolio.
  • Takes the focus away from the actual work you did, potentially diminishing its value.

Think about this from the opposite end of the spectrum:

Even design consultancies that win million dollar contracts don’t talk about how much the project cost. What they do boast about is how much money they made FOR the client. 

My recommendation: reframe any free work you’ve done. All it takes is some different phrasing:

  • Remove words like free, paid, non-paid, volunteer or pro-bono from your projects
  • Elevate the importance of your project by talking about what you did for the client + positive outcomes the client achieved as a result of working with you.

All that worrying about labels like “paid vs non-paid” only goes to show how we measure our work.

Doing free work as designers is a different topic that deserves another slew of articles, so I’ll cap off today’s soapbox with good reasons to include something in your UX portfolio.

A project is worth including in your portfolio if it…

  • Demonstrates the type of work you want to do
  • Taught you something new about UX or business
  • Is work you’re proud of

Intentionally, none of the above includes payment :p

_ _ _

PS Looking for paid UX work? Check out UX Leads.