I was recently contacted out of the blue (the email writer likely found me through the Editors’ Association of Canada database) and asked to do some free proofreading for a charity. One that I had never heard of, and that was way across the country.
I politely replied that I was busy, and that I already volunteer (not editing, but plenty of board and on-the-ground community hours) with several organizations. Of course I occasionally write/edit stuff gratis for groups that I volunteer with, but it’s the first time to be “cold-called” for such volunteer work.
I posted my experience to the “Editors of the World” group on Facebook, and several editors wrote that yes, they do volunteer on occasion, but as with me, it’s nearly always for some group that they are already a member of, or have some other personal connection with.
So a bit of advice for folks seeking free, aka volunteer, professional assistance. Do your homework. Find someone who already volunteers in your geographical area, and your subject area. Find a friend, or a friend of a friend. Or contact your local community college or university and see if a student studying toward the craft or profession that you’re targeting needs work that they can put on a resume.
But I do not recommend cold emailing or calling, and asking folks to work for you for free.