Why Do People Expect Me to Work for Free?

5 Dec


I attended Les Brown’s Greatness Center at The Regal Theater last night and had the following conversation with a colleague in attendance.

Colleague: Are you blogging this event?

Me: No.

Colleague: Well, this is something you should be blogging.

Me: I will if he pays me.

Colleague: Well, you should be blogging this.

Me: I cannot continue to work for free.

Dude looked at me like had grown a second head. I don’t know if he was working for free or not but if I had to guess, I would say he was getting paid for his time and expertise.

I understand that you have to do what you need to do to get to where you want to go, and sometimes that requires you to work for free, but I’ve paid my dues in free labor. And I still am. Sometimes.

And, neither he or Mr. Brown is working for free. Is it really fair to expect me to?

Lastly, sometimes you just want to enjoy events and not work.

I just wanted to share this story because it was a touch annoying. Actually, that was not the first time that colleague suggested I work for free. He told me to video record events and get paid by sponsors. While that sounds good, sponsors only pay when you have a certain number of viewers. Well, the type of events he was suggesting would not draw the traffic that would interest sponsors for at least a year because most people in the suggested audience don’t even know what blogs are. Come to think of it, they probably don’t use computers much. That would require A LOT of time, work and education. I wouldn’t say no to that project but I would say not now. Unless, there is an organization committed to the digital divide willing to pay me. In the meantime, I cannot afford to work for free.

What do you say when people suggest that you work for free?


4 Responses to “Why Do People Expect Me to Work for Free?”

  1. Jennifer Brown Banks December 5, 2010 at 6:30 am #

    Interesting post. It all depends on the nature of the request–(how much time I would have to invest, whether or not it’s a good cause, my relationship with the person requesting it, and also whether or not doing it will increase my exposure or further my creative goals).

    I think that theoretically speaking, we always get paid for our good efforts—either monetarily or in blessings. 🙂

    • Marcie Hill December 5, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

      There are always exceptions. But when the same person continues to recommend free labor with no referrals for paid services, it’s just too annoying. And, I’m trying to build a business. I think I’ve paid my dues in free labor. Like I said, I’m still paying them. Also, there is no guarantee that if I provide this free service this time that the client will continue to use my service or refer me to paying prospects. I will most likely use the same considerations you are using for pro bono projects going forward. Ultimately, I need people to understand that I am building a business, not trying to scratch and scramble for my next mortgage payment.

  2. clara54 December 5, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Hi Marcie,
    I’ve turned down a few gigs either offering too little, or nothing at all for my services. What I won’t turn away? Charitable organizations (legit) its my way of giving back. Because I’m in the business of doing business at this stage, there are few exceptions to growing my brand & profit making efforts:)


    P.S. My bro did recently receive a free consult for his longtime business…does family count?

    • Marcie Hill December 6, 2010 at 12:03 am #

      There will always be exceptions to free labor. Like Jennifer said,it depends on the request. But like you said, you are in the business of doing business so there is little room for free. Family does count. In fact,. you should only work for them for free to avoid altercations in the future. 🙂

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