Businesses expecting freelancers to churn out work for free (or indeed, for ‘exposure’) is hardly a new phenomenon – as many Crunch clients will tell you. Now a new study has offered an insight into the scale of the problem, with a reported 70% of freelancers claiming to have been approached about working for free this year.

As a freelancer, it’s often tempting to take on gigs for little or no pay, especially when you’re struggling to build a client base. However, even if these risks sometimes pay off, such practices becoming the norm can severely decrease demand for paid freelancers and subsequently drag down the asking price for professional freelance work.

Some freelancers have ironically (and often hilariously) gained the exposure promised to them via alternative means: calling out the worst offenders on social media, as we highlighted in our article “Freelancing for free? Sod that.”

In most instances though, dealing with the assumption that they will be happy to receive zero compensation for their hard work is a major frustration, and one of the more prolific causes of anxiety amongst freelancers.

Young freelancers are affected worst

The study (conducted by freelancer approval-tracking service Approve.io) also found that 13% of those who cited client conduct as a cause of anxiety said that being asked to work for free was their biggest grievance.

Notably – and somewhat worryingly – this particular issue was over twice as likely (28%) to be the primary cause of anxiety for the younger generation of freelancers (those aged between 18-24).

Despite job satisfaction being higher amongst freelancers compared to full-time workers, being your own boss is by no means always the relaxing option. Other than client conduct, the study found the other main causes of anxiety to be a lack of guaranteed income, tax/national insurance obligations, financial hardship and lack of routine.