spec workTwo dirty phrases that web designers and graphic designers will hear multiple times throughout their career is “unpaid internship” and “spec work”. Just mention this word to some people I know and it’s enough to make them cringe. This is also something that really hits home for me as I’ve had to deal with my share of despicable people trying to leverage false promises in an effort to get free work.

When I graduated from college I knew it was going to be difficult trying to land a job with no experience so I started developing websites for startups and small businesses. Over the months I became familiar with open source softwares such as OsCommerce, Zen Cart, Mambo (which later became Joomla) and Drupal to build corporate and ecommerce websites. After 1 year, I had a decent portfolio and was able to gain valuable experience, build a reputation and best of all get paid.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of shameless companies in Toronto looking to entice desperate students who are looking to get their careers started and pay nothing. In fact, I came across a few job postings on indeed.com which not only were offering unpaid internship positions but also looked for 2 years experience. They mentioned nothing about being a student which means by Ontario standards, this is illegal.

What I really found troubling was the complete lack of empathy to look for someone who spent 2-3 years in college PLUS an additional 2 years experience and willing to pay NOTHING. Not even the same wages of a burger flipper. See an example of a job posting below.

unpaid internship

It’s not hard to find these companies on Indeed. Just search their website for “unpaid internship” and you’ll find a list of deplorable businesses. The government of Ontario really needs to crack down on these businesses looking to get out of paying wages.

In certain circumstances unpaid internships do make sense. If you’re offered a positions through your college or university for a reputable company that would look good on your resume then it is certainly worth it. In fact, I’ve had friends who were hired on right after their internship was completed.

Unfortunately, there are many small ‘sweat shop’ companies who are unknown, take advantage of internship programs and have no intention of ever hiring. The schools are partly at fault for not vetting companies properly and allowing them to take advantage of unpaid internships. At the very least a decent wage should be provided.

Two ways web designers can get experience and get paid

Freelancing/Contract Work

Starting a small business or freelancing is just one way you can avoid being taken advantage of by the numerous Toronto based companies who prey those looking to get work experience. Starting a business and getting potential clients certainly isn’t easy but truth be told, most people never ask to see a portfolio.

As a junior web developer you can let them know you’re getting started and charge around $20-25/hour which is a pretty competitive to more experienced developers charging $90+/hour. So they’re getting a deal and you’re not subjecting yourself to building someones business for free when you can be putting the same effort into your own.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance based marketing which rewards an affiliate a percentage or dollar amount for each visitor sent by the affiliate marketers efforts. Affiliate programs are FREE to join and there are literally thousands available on the internet. Just checkout linkshare.com or cj.com but keep in mind some expect you to already have a website, but once you do you’re almost guaranteed entry.

Through affiliate marketing, web designers can gain experience in building websites and leverage internet marketing such as social media marketing and search engine optimization. This can eventually show future employers that you have the skills, proven experience but also get paid as a result.

From personal experience I’ve created dozens of affiliate websites, some of which were 6-figure yearly earners. This is easier said then done but a venture I would recommend for those looking to build their portfolio.

earn money through affiliate marketingHere are just 4 reasons why every web designer should get into affiliate marketing:

1. Improve your web design portfolio. I’ve included some of my best affiliate websites into my portfolio. These are websites that I’ve spent hundreds of hours instead of client projects which have a scope based on hours or budget.

2. Gain experience through as a website owner and entrepreneur than rather than some small company looking to cut corners and benefit off the backs of desperate job seekers and students.

3. Learning Environment. I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t through trial and error with my affiliate websites.They act as a testing platform for new WordPress plugins, SEO & internet marketing strategies and more. Before I test an unknown plugin on a clients website I’ll test it first on one of my affiliate based websites.

4. Get paid. This is obviously the best part if your website is doing well. Over my career as an affiliate marketer I’ve created websites that have literally paid for my house I live in and provided the luxury to work from home – with no boss, schedule, deadlines or stress. Who wouldn’t want that?

Who is affiliate marketing for?

As I’ve suggested above, affiliate marketing is great for web developers looking to gain valuable experience rather than taking on unpaid internship positions but also bloggers looking to monetize their websites.

I’ve been thinking of starting a Meetup group to speak to students or anyone interested in learning about affiliate marketing. This would be a great opportunity to learn about this almost taboo method of marketing that can monetize any blog and potentially turn into a full-time job. In order to gauge interest please email info@nextoronto.com.

If you’re looking for a company that specializes inĀ WordPress Development in Toronto and Internet Marketing then contact us today!