Should You Work For Free? Three Questions to Ask Yourself First

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As an entrepreneur you are going to have people approach you to do free things from time to time. Is it ever good to do work for free?

Over the years we have been asked to do a lot of things for free. And we’ve said yes to some of them. But what we have come to realize is our time is very valuable, there are only so many hours in the day. As an entrepreneur every minute counts, you cannot do unlimited work for free.

You can watch the video of our full discussion below or just listen to the audio version as a podcast. If you want more content like this you can subscribe to our Youtube channel.

We have come up with three questions that we always ask ourselves when we are asked to do something for free. If we answer yes to all of them we know we can feel good about saying yes to the opportunity. But if we answer no to all of them (or even 2 out of 3 of them), we say no.

The questions are:

  1. Is there value in it for you? — If you aren’t making any money from this opportunity, is there any other value that would make it worth it? For example,will it help you get endorsements? Will it get you reviews? If you are just starting out will it give you experience to help improve your product or service? Do you need exposure? Will it connect you with the right people?
  2. Do you have enough paid work to justify free work? It’s one thing when you first start out to give some things away to build your portfolio and gain exposure. But you have to be careful that you don’t just give too much away free long term. You still have to pay your bills and make a living. If you give everything away for free, people will question why they should pay a fee later on.
  3. Are you excited by this opportunity? On a scale from 1 (not excited at all) to 10 (as excited as you can get) how do you feel about this opportunity? Think about the time and effort this opportunity will take. Is it worth it? Are you going to feel really good about the time, energy, and resources used for this in the end? Or are you going to regret it?

If after going through these questions you decide the answer is no, be thoughtful about how you say no. You never can tell what the future will bring and someone who asks for something for free today could bring actual business in the future. So always keep your cool and answer kindly. You can be annoyed and take time to respond, but don’t respond in an angry way. You may hurt the relationship long term.

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