Rod Aparicio

Apr 6, 2022

Why working for free when you're starting a new something is not always the best advice. A rant on the idea of free work.

I get it. You're learning the ropes. You wanna build a reputation. You wanna get in the orbit of work you want to do.

Still, why would you do it for free?

You have unique traits that nobody else does. Your thinking, your insights, the way you see the world.

Working for free is gonna solve that?

I doubt it.

First. Every work that you do has to be compensated. I'm not talking about your time. Im talking about the work you do. You're trying to improve a situation and the proper way to tell you thank you is by getting paid.

The sample

Just like the sale is the sample, the first interaction is the sample. If you're not valued, it's very unlikely you'll be in the future. Yah yah. There are cases where it happens, yet it's the exception rather than the rule.

Ask around. How many people have gone from making zero with a client to something significant?

Ask yourself

If it's a big company, why wouldn't they be able to pay, FFS? They're not doing a favor to you, nor you to them. You're -hopefully- trying to build a relationship and it's a very shit way to do that by exerting power over another.

If you do this for free, what are the guarantees that you'd get more to charge on another gig? You won't have a a benchmark to work with. Market price? What if you do things way better? What if everyone is underpriced because they work this way and are taken advantage of? What if "this is the way things work" is the shittiest justification ever?

How could you get better at it if you don't do it?

You won't be able to convert this free work into something meaningful, profitably speaking. Why would they pay you a premium if you already did work for free? You're in the race to zero. And you're gonna win.

How would you train your negotiation skills if you do work for free and have nothing to negotiate with? With your next free gig? Right...

There's a stench of desperation. And we, humans, have a nose for it. When we feel it, we run away. Or take advantage of it.

Wanna get better at pricing and doing better work? Charge. Set a price.

Do this exercise.

Imagine this. You're with a prospect. You get what the project is. You set a price. You say the price. You show the price. And then offer 100% discount for it, because they're big, have a good reputation, whatever argument you want.

If this makes sense to you, go ahead and ignore this whole essay.

If it doesn't make sense, ask yourself why.

You have something. Don't fucking give it away for nothing.

Rod Aparicio

Brand Strategy Advisor for Indie Consulting Firms.