You may well be jumping ahead and already asking yourself “How can I work for free when I have bills to pay?” and that is totally understandable - we will get there… in the next paragraph actually. You may also be wondering how you work for free 'on your own terms' ... 'what on earth will I get out of working for someone FOR FREE!?' I hear you say; Well ... let me explain.
So why work for free?
Nobody that I know of enjoys working for free and when I say nobody, I’m talking about me too! After all, we all have things to pay for right? Whether it be paying rent, a phone bill, food shopping, all of the must-pay-fors, etc. We literally cannot afford to work for no money in return for our service. However, have you ever thought about getting paid by other means, and not cash? Aha! I can see I've piqued your interest; stay with me.
If there is one thing I have learnt as a freelance writer it is that building relationships are far more beneficial in the long run than the quick cash. My motto is "money doesn’t pay you, people do". The better you are at building and maintaining relationships, the more likely you are to secure another gig, job, or whatever it is that you’re after. Think longevity.
Using your time wisely
Now I understand that not everybody can work for free, but many of us can. Working for free can definitely work out in your favour, especially when it's done right. Let me remind you that there are 168 hours in a week. The average person sleeps for around eight hours every night, works 40 hours a week, spends 1-2 hours commuting to and from work, 1-2 hours cooking dinner, one hour watching their favourite TV show and has a one-hour workout 3 times a week.
That adds up to 130 hours, leaving 38 hours spare. In those 38 hours, they could actually make time for their passion, craft, side hustle, etc. If you’re truly passionate about your craft; you will always find time for it. The desire to follow what makes your soul elate goes beyond any amount of money you could make and in my honest opinion; is never considered to be “work”.
Money isn’t everything
I would like to establish with you that sometimes cash is not king. I want you to think beyond money as the most important transaction when it comes to building a career; just for a second.
I’ve been writing on my own personal blog for the last five years (sporadically; forgive me for my poor execution but your boy is making a return to writing for good - I promise) and the happiness that flows through me combusts when I press that “publish” button. There’s no feeling like it. Do I get paid for it? Yes, yes I do. I get paid in gratitude when people tell me they enjoy reading my articles and seeing my viewership increase.
The thing for me is that I’ve been writing for free for years. Perfecting my tone, structure and figuring myself out all at the same time. With that being said, because of my persistence in wanting to get better at my craft, I’ve found myself with amazing opportunities. My biggest achievement to date would have to be interviewing Afro-pop star Maleek Berry for Plugsville. No amount of money could ever top that.
Working for free can lead to paid opportunities
Now I find myself writing for Fledglink AND getting paid -with actual money. To get paid for your passion seems like a crime of the highest degree! The best thing about working for free on your individual art is that it doesn’t feel like work, or at least it shouldn’t.
Working for free is ideal for those with no experience and/or connections that want to join the creative industry or any industry in that matter. Whether it be writing, drawing, animation, music, graphic design, etc. If you think you’re at a disadvantage because of a lack of experience, think again. If you’re a new writer, for example, you’re at the greatest advantage because you can build your own brand very easily, design a website, decide the topic/s you want to write about, develop your tone and writing style and post it on your own blog site and share it all over social media. Not just that, but the more articles you write, the more traffic and attention you can bring towards yourself - which gives you leverage when approaching potential employers so it is vital that you contact anyone and everyone in your trade of choice.
Build networks and relationships with companies
Companies are always on the look-out for people willing to work for free, can you take a guess why? Because it doesn’t cost them a penny! The only thing they have to pay you with is their attention. If you can gain experience, learn new skills and build a relationship with a credible organisation it can add serious weight to your CV and might possibly land you a job if the circumstance works in your favour. Working for free is your strongest currency.
For instance, former speaker, Derek Halpern was contacted by an event organiser to speak for free at their conference, and he agreed. Why? Because he knew there was going to be at least 20 people in the audience that would be willing to pay him to speak at their events - so long as they enjoyed his presentation. What Halpern focused his attention to more than the quick money, was the long term benefit of speaking for free at this event.
Rather than turning down this opportunity because it wouldn’t fill his pockets right away, he saw it as 1. An audition for future opportunities resulting in more money 2. A chance to build a solid relationship with the company that hired him and 3. It would add more weight to his credentials. Companies, or should I say people, love generous people.
This is not me suggesting that you should work for free with poor intention. What I mean by that is I would never recommend doing something just because you think it’s beneficial to you; do it with the purest of intentions because you’re passionate about helping others.
Whilst you’re on your come up, forget the money when it comes to pursuing the passion. We all need money to live so I’d recommend a part-time or full time job to keep you afloat - but outside of those working hours dedicate your life to what makes you happy and never stop. In the words of the late great Nipsey Hussle
“The best teacher in life is your own experience, none of us know who we are until we fail. They say a man is defined by his reaction to any given situation - well who would you want to define you, someone else, or yourself? Whatever you do homie, give your heart to it; and stay strong”.
From experience, working for free screams passion, desire, willingness and devotion. These are characteristics that are essential for success, yet extremely difficult to come by - which is why most employers grin from cheek to cheek when they find someone with that in their armoury because they know they’ve got somebody that takes their craft seriously. However, if you’re like me and you have plans to be your own boss then that’s just as good. As long as you figure out what works for YOU, I am happy. So that leaves me to ask you - what would you do for free?
Here are three things I want you to take from this.
Working for free gives you leverage
Working for free builds a strong work ethic
Working for free shows dedication