We’ve talked about receiving and we’ve talked about asking, now it’s time to talk about giving. But what happens when you give and give and give…receiving nothing in return? Some would say that’s the beauty in giving. But what about when it comes to your career? Should we be willing to work for free? According to Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty, that answer is YES.
But it’s not that simple. He has a great post on his website titled “The Myth of Working for Free.” What he suggests is that when you’re first starting a business or working as an artist, that you should expect to put a lot of leg work in to get your idea off the ground. This means time spent networking, researching, investing, creating, the list goes on and on. And even after you do all this, you might not see the initial return in the form of actual dollars. BUT there’s a silver lining.
Because all this time that you’ve been building, you’ve been creating a name for yourself. You’ve received valuable tools and met just the right people to support you along the way. You’ve discovered your own voice and style. You’ve been given the forum in which to share your talent with others. And then one day…
You suddenly swap roles without even realizing it. Fields calls this “the brand hand moment.”
“It’s the point where the value of your brand and contribution becomes so self-evident or clearly expressed that it gives you enough power and leverage to start getting paid cold hard cash for the very thing you were paying cold hard cash to do the day before.”
I think it’s helpful to think of everything you contribute to your dream as an investment. Sometimes you don’t see a return right away, but eventually you do, as long as you’re willing to stick with it.
Fields says even people who are well-established can benefit from opportunities to “work for free.” For example, you might agree to speak at a certain conference without accepting any monetary compensation because you know that key people will be there that can help you expand your business either by getting the word out, teaching you something, or marketing you in such a way that will make you more valuable in the long run. So what you do for free now, could create actual money in the future. Hey, isn’t that one of the laws of the universe 😉
Now, I’m not suggesting we all start working for free. There’s something to be said for simply having a steady job and making money to pay the bills. But if you find yourself starting up your own venture, take heart. You may feel like you’re throwing spaghetti at a wall, but eventually something’s going to stick. And when it does, you want to be there to claim that noodle!