Why Work for Free? Because it Works

work for freeI read a particularly irksome blog post recently, where the writer took umbrage with unpaid internships. Admittedly, that’s a big kettle of fish, with pros and cons, and differing opinions. But what really irked me was this concept that people shouldn’t work for free.

Are you kidding me? What world do you live in – because it certainly isn’t the same one I am occupying at the moment.

People work for free all the time. That big project you had to stay really late at the office to finish last week..? You worked for free. Those times you dealt with an issue or sent an email or two from home on the weekend…? You worked for free. When you were asked to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to meet a deadline…? You worked for free.

Now, those are the obvious examples – and I suppose the argument would be “well, you’re already getting paid if you’re working a full time job, so those examples don’t count!”

Why Work for Free?

Ok, I’ll bite. Let’s look at it another way. You’re a blogger and you’re working your tail off trying to build a community and gain visibility for your property. You’ve definitely worked for free, and most likely above and beyond your “real job” working hours and after you’ve put in a 50 hour work week.

That blog is starting to pick up and maybe – just maybe – you are hitting that golden moment where you can start monetizing the darn thing! But really, you’re a bit of an unknown entity – unproven – and a company or brand wants you to work with them a bit on spec to test the waters with you. You are appalled. Incensed. Outright insulted even! And you take to the social airwaves to make your points and vent your frustrations.

My bet is that you won’t be getting too many more offers from too many more brands to partner up. Mobile and web have exploded (i.e. there are a bazillion bloggers out there doing the exact same thing you’re doing – and better). And lots and lots of people will happily do writing or PR work on spec in order to prove their talents and/or increase their name recognition. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

I write for free all the time. Because I understand that it benefits me in myriad ways:

  • By increasing the reach and visibility of the Spin Sucks brand
  • Keeping my writing skills sharp
  • I want to ?ªpay it forward’ and help out people who have helped me in the past
  • And I strive every day to grow my own community, make valuable new connections and develop deeper relationships with people

There is no amount of cash money that can deliver the things I mentioned above. And I’m obviously not talking about the shysters and snake oil salesmen who want to hire people for $10.00 an hour.

You have to be on your toes and be sure you’re not being taken advantage of. But really? “No one works for free”? If that’s your attitude – and you’re actively trying to build a brand for yourself – then I wish you godspeed and good luck. Because you’re gonna need it.