Some people I coach want to give it all away. Others — they wouldn’t give an inch to get a mile. Who is right? What is right?
I think (one of my heroes) Seth Godin puts it quite succinctly with this:
Should you work for free?
Some of the factors to consider:
- Do they pay other people who do this work? Do their competitors?
- Am I learning enough from this interaction to call this part of my education?
- Is this public work with my name on it, or am I just saving them cash to do a job they should pay for?
- If I get paid, is it more likely the organization will pay closer attention, promote it better and treat it more seriously?
- Do I care about their mission? Can they afford to do this professionally?
- Will I get noticed by the right people, people who will help me spread the word to the point where I can get hired to do this professionally?
- What’s the risk to me, my internal monologue and my reputation if I do this work?
If you’re an up-and-coming band building an audience, then yes, free, free, free. It’s always worth it for you to gig, because you get at least as much out of the gig as the organizer and the audience do. But when you’ve upped and come, then no, it’s not clear you ought to bring your light and your soul and your reputation along just because some promoter asked you to.
Here’s the heart of it: if you’re busy doing free work because it’s a good way to hide from the difficult job of getting paid for your work, stop. When you confuse busy for productive, you’re sabotaging your ability to do important work in the future. On the other hand, if you’re turning down free gigs because the exposure frightens you, the same is true… you’re ducking behind the need to get paid as a way to hide your art.
We all (ought to) do our share of “giving back”. That being said, you don’t ever want to discount your value or worth in the eyes of your tribe. It all comes down to your rationale. If you are doing it because you want to help out others or to help you get noticed, it probably makes sense. If you are doing it because you don’t feel you are worth it… NOT SO MUCH!