Working for free for a start-up to get a foot into the door?


I used to be a freelance web translator (which I still am), but my new objective is to become a full stack web developer, thanks to Free Code Camp of course.

When I was a translator, I used to work for free for NGO’s and such to build up experience, get references, build my network. And all from my computer screen.

I wonder if I could do the same with a Web Developer job for a start-up or a traditional organization. For a limited time of course, and it could be a foot into the door to get a full-time paid job. In the process I acquire experience, which will always be useful.

The only (big problem) is that I already have a full-time IT employee job currently (standard operating hours) and I could only work at nights and week-ends, and probably 1 or 2 hours during the day from my computer office coding.

What do you say are my chances of convincing a company/start-up to hire me (like an intern I guess?) and how to show my talents if I have no operational real-life experience in coding, and only my strong will to learn, evolve and be useful?

What are the risks involved with this approach (and by the way, if you know somebody or a company who could offer me some work right now (non paid) in Web projects, please contact me privately).


I suggest ramping up your coding skills on freecodecamp and start contributing to open source projects - many large and small software companies now run on a lot of open source - they also contribute to or customize open source software - significant contributions to high-profile projects won’t go unnoticed by companies

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There are strict rules for companies regarding hiring interns – the primary benefit should be to the intern, not to the company… or the company may be seen as abusing the intern/employer relationship by getting free labor.

It will probably be difficult to get hired as an intern. (and most intern positions are not paid, or paid very little… only the big/huge internet companies pay interns 70/80K but that’s not part-time work either, and the bar is very high.)

What you can try is approach non-profits in your area and offer your web dev services. It’s free to them, and you’re doing good work (and practice, and real-world situation), and usually the leaders in these non-profit orgs have other day jobs and/or management positions in other companies. Making a good impression and connections with these people may be advantageous to you in the long run.

I’ve seen a lot of developers recommend never working for free. Work for minimum wage if you have to, but never give your skills away if a company is profiting from them. If they know you’re the kind of person who would work for nothing, they don’t have much of an incentive to pay you a lot if they ever give you a full-time position.

As others have said, you can show your skills to potential employers by contributing to open-source projects or developing for non-profit organizations.

But maybe I could gain work experience working for free for one company and then once I have acquired enough experience, I am stronger and I can apply to full-time paid jobs, with my better portfolio?

Also just wanted to ask. I am a French citizen. To work in the USA I need a work visa, to be sponsored by a US company and its a complex process. What are my chances of being hired by a US start-up/ IT company from France after building up my skills to a satisfactory level? (like getting the Free Code Camp Full-stack Web Developer certification and other?) Isi common for foreign companies (mainly US-based) to employ freelance web developers, but full-time? It could be a good start for me. Once I feel at ease and stronger in terms of projects, portfolio and experience, I could move to the host country and definitely leave my current job. Of course this would requise some time and I can’t afford to fail…(because I would be leaving a very stable and safe position which I have right now (but boring)). Regards

In the United States at least, it’s illegal for business to have people work for them for free. It would violate the minimum wage laws. Also, unpaid internship are usually part of a college program and are highly regulated.

A workaround would be to volunteer for a nonprofit. Many times, they’re operating on a shoestring budget and don’t know how to manage websites. You can put it down as actual experience on an application. You could even ask them to give you a serious sounding job title…

Large American software companies hire globally - it does not matter who you are where you’re from or where you are

You’re getting too far ahead of yourself - there is no job or visa unless you establish and are able to demonstrate technical competence

@Theoask I’d better work on creating something to show prospective employers