People feel on guard when they hear “free work.”

Understandably, because we’ve been trained in our culture to fear getting “used” by those “profit-seeking capitalists.”

But that’s a disempowering mindset.

How can someone “use” you without your permission?

You always have the option to walk away. So in reality, no employer or company can take advantage of you, if you don’t let them.

It comes down to asking yourself, “am I getting sufficient value from this relationship?”

If you are, then all is good. If you are not, then you have the power to change your circumstances.

The Value of Free Work

But let’s drill down to the essence of this post: free work isn’t really free.

You may not receive money, but you receive value. You can:

Build a reputation.
Earn trust.
Gain skills and tacit knowledge.
Build a portfolio.
Expand your network.
Set yourself up for a future paycheck.

Let’s just look at that last one, set yourself up for a future paycheck.

What if you offered to work for free for 2 weeks, then you crushed it so much that the company saw you as indispensable, and offered you a role?

When you compare that to a passive job seeker who takes 6 months to get employed, then well, you’ve actually set yourself up for 5-and-a-half months of income!

But the intangible value you can gain such as skills, a portfolio, and new connections is just as beneficial.

Even if you did a few free projects for an entrepreneur who ultimately couldn’t give you a job offer, you’d still have a portfolio of projects to show the world, plus probably a strong reference! Not to mention, a powerful and confident mindset to bring you to your next opportunity.

Set the Frame

Maybe we all need to just drop this word “free” and think of everything as value exchange.

When you set this new frame, you begin to see a world of possibility.

A world that caters to your own self-interest.