As someone who does a significant amount of freelance work in the arts, and has mentored many people who do the same, I am often asked to articulate my “Love or Money Policy.”
The “Doctrine of Love or Money” is based on a simple premise: Your time is valuable. In order to accept a job, you must either really love the people, really believe in the project at hand, or be appropriately compensated. Ideally all of the above would be true, but we do not exist in an ideal world.
Any freelance gig must be worth one’s time if one is to accept it. Compensation is most often financial, but might also be learning new skills and/or something with a high probability of leading to a higher goal. (Be very careful of any offer of “great exposure” in lieu of other compensation. If a project is so high profile that that’s an offer that can realistically be made, either you will have already heard of it independently and/or they can afford to pay you.)
It is fine to do things to gain experience, but if it is just about experience, that experience had better be worthwhile. If you are being compensated too far below what you think is fair, you will resent the time spent more than you would if you were doing it pro bono.
If you adopt this sort of doctrine, it means that you are only doing the work that you want to do. And you are far less likely to burn yourself out, or to miss the chance to take part in positive experiences because you are caught in draining ones.
Those of us who work in the arts do it for the love. Make sure the love is there when you take on a gig. That said, if and when you are asking other people to work for love, treat both them and the work you are doing with them with enough respect and professionalism that the experience is worth everyone’s time.
I make theatre in a wide spectrum of venues ranging from LORT houses to high schools. The places where I work for love have as high a professional standard as those where I work for money. When I am asking people to work for love, they are at the top of the list of those who I recommend and/or hire when there is material compensation involved and they are qualified.
This applies to anything really, but those who work in the arts need to hear it far more than say, aerospace engineers.