There’s No Value in Free. Except When There Is.

Should I work for free. An Ask Alli Question on Babble

Is there value in free? Is working for no pay worthwhile?

Have you ever wondered if working for free is ever a good idea? You’ve heard that people do not value what they get for free, and yet sometimes free work is actually recommended as a step on the journey to success.

Today I will explain how to know when free has value. Because it often there is value in free.

Here’s what not to do. A photographer I know donated several portrait sessions to a family who couldn’t afford to hire her; they always promised that once their business was up and running they’d hire her “for real” going forward. She thought she was helping a family in need, building a reputation as a caring business, and guaranteeing future clients.

Guess what happened?   Once their business was openly doing very well and they called to book their next session, she asked that they pay for it. They balked at her prices and tried to negotiate by starting at their “normal” price of nothing, “We’ve never paid before, we’d think you should be happy with $200. It’s a huge increase.”

So is the lesson to never give your time or talents away in business because you devalue yourself? Nope.

Some Free Work *is* Valuable. Extremely.

There are times when working for free is not only a smart choice, but a brilliant choice.  I have even recommended to my coaching clients that they take on opportunities where they work for no pay. When they were able to explore new opportunities and test out ideas.  The key is to look at potential values in the work even if they don’t beef up your bank account.

  • There is great value working when it gives you access to a new network or contact.
  • There is great value in learning new skills, and how to apply them in a real world setting.
  • There is huge value in having experience that you can add to your resume that perhaps translates into a career (and a fabulous way to bridge a period of unemployment between jobs, by the way).
  • There is tremendous value in getting your foot in the door and your name known an organization for which you’d like to work; the next job opening just might be yours. Focus on your long term goals when you make this decision!
  • And of course volunteering or donating your talents to a cause you believe in is a worthy investment, but be selective about these scenarios.  You don’t want to overcommit or you can quickly deplete your “free” time (see what I did there, heh).

The difference between being taken advantage of and having the perfect opportunity to earn your chops is in the intention and the resulting outcomes. It’s not based on othersThe difference between being taken advantage of and having the perfect opportunity to earn your chops is in the intention and the resulting outcomes. It's not based on others valuing your worth, it's based on the value you get out of it. Business quot valuing your worth, it’s based on the value you get out of it.

Know your value, know when to break your own rules, but know your limits. 

Let that story of my photographer friend of mine be a warning to you. Don’t be afraid to donate your time and talent if it furthers your career or personal growth, but don’t let it be a trap that ends up as an albatross around your neck…and most definitely don’t let others take advantage of you.

If it fits where you are in your career, DO find opportunities where working for no pay allows you to blossom, to accept chances that open up your networking potential, and is a personal challenge.

In the long run, these can be invaluable.


 Your Turn!

Share an experience you had with this topic.

Have you ever found value in free?


And, of course, please share with your friends!


Article Posted 3 years Ago

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