Should You Ever Work For Free?
By Anubhav Srivastava ( Register for his Workshop – Build Super Confidence For Super Success!)
Should You Ever Work For Free? This seems almost blasphemous. How can one be expected to work for free? This at first may seem shocking but is happening all over the world all the time. Countless people all over the world are working for free for companies and organizations that are clearly making money.
If you are doing a corporate job, you may not relate to this article as much but if you are self employed or a freelancer you certainly will.
I don’t have anything against providing your work for free. In fact I have put up my movie Carve Your Destiny, which was the result of 6 years of intense hard work for absolutely free on Youtube. All of the content on this blog, which I work super hard on every month, is free. There reason why I am willing to do this is because I want to provide value who genuinely cannot afford to get it from somewhere else and because providing considerable content for free is a part of my long term business strategy. I do free when I want to because it is out of my own choice.
However, at some point providing everything for free is not economically feasible because ultimately everyone needs and deserves to make a living. And yet I see this exploitation happening regularly. I deal with two kinds of organizations. The ones who respect one’s experience and knowledge and pay them accordingly and the ones who want everything for cheap or FREE. This article is about the second category.
I have been asked to speak for free at organizations who are clearly making money. The first thing I ask the man or the woman asking me this is whether they do their work for free. Would they do the job they are doing for absolutely no money? And if they don’t, how can they have the audacity to ask someone else to work for free.
I often contacted by some universities making tons of money by selling expensive courses and degree programs to their students. These people have made a fortune. And yet, many of them have a habit of exploiting speakers or freelancers from other industries by not paying them anything or peanuts.
Ask them why and they say they don’t have the budget to invest in programs that would benefit their students. So they are only interested in draining major money from students and their parents. But when it comes to investing in something for the benefit of the students, suddenly they are broke.
One person from such an institute specifically asked me to speak “Pro-Bono.” Pro Bono basically means providing your services for free for “The Public Good.” Most people who do Pro Bono work charge heavily from people who have the money and provide the same services to the needy for free. How on earth are organizations sitting on top of piles of cash needy?
And don’t be misled if someone says they are a non profit organization. Many of the so called non profits are also very cash rich thanks to donations. All they need to do in order to retain their status as a non profit is to not show a profit on paper. Many of them simply distribute a lot of the money amongst themselves as salaries or inflate actual expenses in order to avoid showing a profit.
Here is when I am willing to work for free. Pay notice because if you are self employed individual regularly being asked to offer their services for free, the points below maybe relevant to you as well.
- When I am creating a new speech or workshop and I am looking for critical feedback
- When the platform given by the organization AND the promotion they give is actually incredible and worth the efforts involved in creating and performing a free speech/workshop
- When I am not busy with my professional gigs/online business and want to do volunteer work for a cause I can relate to.
There maybe exceptions here and there but most of the times, it is only under one of these conditions that I will speak for free.
You may not be a speaker, you maybe self employed or rendering your services in another industry. However it is important to set conditions only under which you would be willing to work for free, otherwise you are setting yourself up for exploitation.
Here are my suggestions on when it is okay to work for free.
1) You want to help people who are genuinely needy. But in order to do this your needs have to be met as well. Charge from the people who have the money. But Differentiate the cheap from the needy. Just because someone says they don’t have the budget or the cash does not mean they are actually needy. Don’t let cheap people or freeloaders (those who want everything for free) exploit you.
2) If you are still working on honing your skills and want to improve your craft, you can consider working for free. But make sure you actually get valuable learning in return are not just made to fetch coffee for seniors or working for people who exploit you.
3) If you are working for free, consider a barter system, where you get something valuable in return that actually benefits you.
4) If it gives you invaluable exposure in the industry that actually has the potential to lead to paid work, you may consider doing a few gigs for free. But here again, you need to do your due research. Many organizations will make you do work for free citing exposure even though they themselves have no exposure to begin with . Or they maybe credible names but still not do anything to promote you and may just use you. So be wise!
5) When you are an absolute newbie and are looking to build up your resume. Then again, being associated with a few big credible names is of far greater value than doing free work at a hundred shady organizations. So pick and choose carefully.
6) In all other cases only work for free because YOU WANT TO, not because you are being made to. Only do it if it gives you genuine happiness!
Know your worth. There is nothing wrong with working for free if you want to do it out of your own will or with a strategy in mind, but make sure you do your due research so that you don’t end up getting used again and again. And put a limit on the kind of free work you are willing to provide. If everything you do is for free, slowly the word will spread and instead of getting the paid work you deserve you will only end up getting more and more freeloaders at your door. If you stay a doormat, you will only end up getting used over and over again. Stand up for what you deserve and you might get it!
About the Author
Anubhav Srivastava is an author, speaker and the director of Carve Your Destiny, a first of its kind inspirational documentary featuring some of the most famous personalities from diverse fields. It has been seen by over 1 Million People on Youtube. Anubhav has also been featured in numerous International and India Media outlets such as BBC , The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Rediff.com, Leicester Mercury and many others.
For one on one consulting or a motivational workshop at your organization please email email@example.com . If you would like to write a guest blog post on Anubhavsrivastava.com you contact me on the same email address.
Watch Carve Your Destiny, the super inspirational movie by Anubhav Srivastava for Free at