Work: It’s Not Always About The Money

I woke up today to a bunch of chatter on Twitter about how “journalists don’t work for free, so why should bloggers” – as the conversation went on, eventually it distilled down to “people don’t work for free and it’s a massive insult to be asked to do *anything* for free!!”

And that’s where I started to get irked.

Add Insult To Injury

Are you frikking kidding me people? 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.

Will Work For….

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!”

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.

Show Me The Money!

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.

You Scratch Mine And I’ll Scratch Yours

My bet is that you won’t be getting too many more offers from too many more brands to partner up. Because unless you’ve been living under a rock these last 10 years or so, you would realize that the economy is in the toilet. 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 increase their name recognition. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. If the almighty dollar is the only thing that strokes your ego and gets you out of bed in the morning, then you are missing out on a whole lot of opportunity.

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

  • I’m looking for work and need to be seen
  • I want to keep my writing skills sharp
  • I want to ‘pay 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

Give To Get

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

Thoughts? How much free work have you done – if any – to enhance your reputation? 


13 thoughts on “Work: It’s Not Always About The Money

  1. I agree and disagree. 
    Like you, I spend an inordinate amount of time writing guest posts and creating content for free. First, I love to write and sometimes what I want to write about doesn’t fit Spin Sucks. But I also feel the same way you do about helping others (I think that’s a Midwest thing, which includes Toronto). 
    That said, there comes a time where you have to draw the line. If I provided my time or writing for everyone who asked, I wouldn’t grow a business, work with clients, or do my job. It gets really bothersome when people ask, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee and pick your brain?” over and over and over again. Maybe it’s the difference between selling a product and a service, but my brain is my service and a cup of coffee (that I don’t drink) doesn’t cut it. As well, the speaking opportunities that don’t pay are plentiful. Sure there are big names who will do it for free, but they’re typically those employed by a company that sees their speaking as brand awareness and not as an expense. For small companies, it’s hard to absorb that cost without an ROI…and there is rarely an ROI, other than patting your ego.
    And…free doesn’t pay your mortgage. So there has to be a nice balance and only you can decide what that balance is.

    •  @ginidietrich Whoa. That was *quite* the comment Gini! I agree with what you’re saying re: drawing the line, and knowing when you are being “taken advantage of” – and yes, *your* brain most definitely IS a service – but I’m talking about people who are just starting out – who are where you were at maybe 6 or 7 years ago – I guarantee that you did a whole boat load of free work when you were just starting to get Spin Sucks off the ground. You’re right – you need to pick and choose what will or won’t benefit you when it comes to “freebies” or work in the name of “getting your name out there”. The issue I have is the overarching idea that “NO ONE” does work from free – which I think is the worst attitude to have when one is trying to establish themselves in the social space. 

  2. This is an interesting post, and as someone who has what might be called a “mommy blog,” I’ve seen it said and debated many a time. And yet, it continues to be an interesting post because it is a timeless topic.
    Sure, people work for free all the time. But it depends what one considers “work” and what ones considers “free.” So, if I am reading a business book on my own personal time, am I “working” for free? If I write a blog post and get paid in free cereal, is that still working for “free”? If I submit a piece of graphic design to a company on spec as part of an RFP? As a freelance journalist, submitting a piece for review without having a contract in hand? etc. etc.  
    Like Gini notes, I do work for free … but it’s terribly selective at this point. And I wouldn’t consider it “free,” because I eventually see it returning back to me in one form of benefit or another. When it is utterly one-sided, that is when you find bloggers raising their hands in frustration.

    • @coffeewithjulie Thanks Julia, and I completely agree with you – it *does* depend on what one considers work and what one considers free. I will bust a gut for someone I admire and if it’s work I love and value – I do *lots* of free work – but it’s always for the greater good – for an ultimate personal gain. So, is that work truly free? I suppose my point above was that the conversation that was happening that day was along the lines of the college grad who wants to be the CEO. Said individual –  felt so insulted that they had been approached without an immediate offer of $$. Then proceeded to go very social with the whole thing. If you’re a relatively new blogger and just building a community and a name for yourself, not the best move in my humble opinion. 😉

      • @belllindsay Ha! Well I’m sure that blogger had just tons of companies beating down his/her door with 6 figure offerings after complaining on twitter. 😉

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