Today an Academy of Art student posted this on Facebook:
A friend of mine contacted me and she told me that in the business she is working in they wanted to make a small illustrated book, like a children's book, telling how the business came to be. It is short about 10 pages, double page spread plus the book cover and they wanted someone good and that worked fast. So I sent her my portfolio and resume. She told me that they chose me to be the illustrator and now I have been given the feel that they want me to work for free since I am a student. Her boss told her to tell me that maybe I could use this as a "Project" for my portfolio or school credit.
Several times I've written blog rants about the "it would be good for your portfolio" line, but never posted them because I figured that this subject has already been hashed over plenty of times. But then I saw this on Facebook and got all angry and constipated all over again.
If someone says to you "it would be good for your portfolio," they probably don't understand what a portfolio is. It's not a collection of every drawing you've ever done. It's a collection of carefully curated works, arranged in a fine-tuned order, specifically targeted towards whatever creative industry you want to get into.
You can create work for your portfolio whenever you darn well please. You don't need someone else's permission to do so.
People act like they're giving you the amazing opportunity to work for free by masking it with the "it would be good for your portfolio" line. But in reality, they don't know if it would be good for your portfolio and they don't really care. They just want free artwork.