I moved to a small town years ago, and when I did I volunteered to host and update a website for the local downtown business association; I figured this would put me in touch with local businesses and would be a good show of my work, so I did it for free.
Over time, the business association started asking for more and more complex updates to the site that meant I couldn’t do it for free anymore.
Me: I’ve been happy to do this for you, but I’m unable to offer what want for free. I can send you a quote to build you a new website that does what you want.
I put together a quote with potential features, timelines, everything. They called back furious.
Client: What’s this? I thought you were going to build us a website!
Me: No, I was only going to give you a quote for one. I’ll start building the site if you agree to the quote.
Client: But how do we know what your work is like from a quote?
Me: …The last two years of work I did for you, for free?
They refused. Since I was hosting the site and responsible for all its content, I eventually removed it.
Later I had to sue them for a map from the site that they used without permission or credit on a local newspaper promotion.
I’ve learned from my naive ways and do nothing for free in the hopes of getting work.