6 Reasons Working For Free Can Get You Paid

Sometimes it's worth the risk when you can get a return on your time investment

(Image: Thinkstock)
(Image: Thinkstock)

If you are a freelancer working here and there, there may be a new way of looking at making the leap to full-time, fully paid, signed-long-term-contract(s)-in-hand entrepreneur.  I’m here to tell you that even though we all need to eat, like to have a roof over our heads and some of the other niceties money affords us, we may have to forego getting paid for a little while to make a lot more money later.

Here’s why working for free benefits the freelancer with entrepreneurial aspirations:

You are creating a space: There are companies out there that are desperately in need of your services, but they don’t have the funds to pay for those services (yet).  Inserting yourself into someone’s business for free creates a win-win; the value they produce their own clientele goes up so they make more money, and in turn they start paying you.  Find where your services fit, and approach the company with how you can add value for free.

You are learning something new
: Education costs money.  Obtaining a new skill set in this economy isn’t a viable option when you are waiting for gigs to pay you or are trying to hold on to those rainy-day funds. Giving away your services in return for learning a new trade or updating your skills in your industry’s software or technology are all invaluable. Not to mention these opportunities look great on LinkedIn profiles and other online portfolios. College kids are vying for these opportunities in the form of internships; why shouldn’t you?

You are planting a seed:
You reap what you sow. You get what you give. No, really. I don’t even know how to explain this. If you do good work for someone they might not be the one who gives you a long-term contract, but you will get noticed via your updated portfolio or recommendations.  According to Brian Tracy’s book, Maximum Achievement (highly recommend by the way), it doesn’t even matter that you are working for them for free for your own good (which sounds kind of selfish but isn’t). Sowing and reaping is a law of the universe like gravity is a law. Plant seeds and your rewards will be many.

You are doing what you love:
Everyone’s journey is different. I’ve done what I’ve loved for a long time: pottery, mosaics, poetry contests, children’s books, inspirational posters — there’s quite a list. This is the first time I’ve made a career out of it, but I did what I loved a little at a time and the money did follow.

You are making a spot at the table: You can sit at the head of the conference room table or at the foot, but guess what? Everyone in that room gets the same information. Just because you aren’t paid to be there doesn’t make the experience or your contribution any less valuable.  At that table are all the decision makers for that company; use that knowledge bank when you are setting up your business structure.  You know how they say if you want something different you should do something different? Make a spot at a new table with new people and watch new money start flowing.

You are providing a free lunch: TINSTAFL. It is an economic term that means, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” It applies here, and in a big way. People never expect to get something for free. That right there will set you apart from your competition. Remember this free lunch is going to cost them big when they enter that contract with you, and you want them to know that you deserve every penny (remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch).

Working for free can be a gamble, but keeping these six things in mind will bring the odds into your favor.  Stress that you will not be free forever.  Negotiate a timeline for being hired and discuss what deliverables must be met for you to become a part of the (paid) team.

Ella Rucker is the producer and director of operations for #MentorMonday with Paul C. Brunson and #MentorMondayMastermind. She has made her living for the past three years working working as a writer, editor and content producer with some of the most successful personalities, brands, and blogs.  She has also written an eguide for Blogalicious entitled Tick Tock Goes The Blog Clock: The What, Why and How Of Creating 365 Days Of Content TODAY.

You can find Ella blogging at They Met Online, by following her tweets @ellalaverne or reading her own in-the-works blog, BestBlogContent.com.

10 Responses to 6 Reasons Working For Free Can Get You Paid

  1. outsidetheboxmom says:

    I work for free in the “creating space” sense all the time. I know at some point I won’t be able to give my value away for free, so I guess I’m paying it forward now.

    Thanks for the other ideas.


  2. Patrice says:

    Great article! And, yes –> Sometimes it’s worth the risk when you can get a return on your time investment

  3. Great Article and refreshing as well. I totally agree with all six of the points, but, especially believe in the law of reciprocity. Yes, God created the universe to return to those what they’ve given in a greater way.

    We know our value, but we must also know what we need to do on the front end to reap great benefits on the back.

    Take care,


  4. Ask Dr. Renee says:

    Excellent advice Ella. I agree 100% especially since I have received this blessing more than once.

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  7. Interesting read. I can definitely attest to free work opening many doors. “The referral” has kept me afloat for years. One of the darker sides of doing free work though, is feeling locked in to that position once you want to start charging for your work. I’d love to see a follow-up maybe speaking on how to transition from the free to paying gigs, and maybe unpacking that “timeline negotiation” you mentioned.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    -Rob (GraveShiftStudios.com)

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