Unpaid labor

Unpaid jobs: The new normal?

March 25, 2011: 12:33 PM ET

While businesses are generally wary of the risks of using unpaid labor, companies that have used free workers say it can pay off when done right.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis, contributor

FORTUNE -- With nearly 14 million unemployed workers in America, many have gotten so desperate that they're willing to work for free. While some businesses are wary of the legal risks and supervision such an arrangement might require, companies that have used free workers say it can pay off when done right.

"People who work for free are far hungrier than anybody who has a salary, so they're going to outperform, they're going to try to please, they're going to be creative," says Kelly Fallis, chief executive of Remote Stylist, a Toronto and New York-based startup that provides Web-based interior design services. "From a cost savings perspective, to get something off the ground, it's huge. Especially if you're a small business."

In the last three years, Fallis has used about 50 unpaid interns for duties in marketing, editorial, advertising, sales, account management and public relations.  She's convinced it's the wave of the future in human resources. "Ten years from now, this is going to be the norm," she says. More

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