Founder Life
February 24, 2021

Why you shouldn’t work for free

I’ve done it, and I know I’m not the only one. Maybe you’ve done it too? When you’re starting a new business it can be really tempting to agree to work for free in exchange for “exposure” or the potential of future, paid work, especially if you’ve got time on your hands. But this can be extremely damaging for your business.  

Have confidence in your worth and stand by it.

I totally get it, if you’re doing something you love (which hopefully you are if you’re starting a business doing it), then it doesn’t feel like a hardship to do it for free. I’m a strong believer that passion needs to come before profit, and if you’re passionate about something it can be hard to reign that passion in. It can also feel really good to help someone out. I found helping startups particularly rewarding and, because they rarely have any money, I often found myself dishing out valuable legal advice for free. 

But it’s not about money (although working for free is not going to pay your bills), it’s about value. Working for free sends a strong message that your time and expertise is worthless. People value what they pay for, so if someone is paying for your advice they’re far more likely to act on it than if you give the same advice for free. And if they don’t value your advice, they’re very unlikely to come back to you and pay you for more advice. 

Your time and expertise is valuable and you need to determine what the right value for this is. It can be hard to ask for money – it means that we’re assigning a value to ourselves that puts us in the firing line for rejection, and no-one likes rejection. But it’s important to accept that not everyone is going to pay what you’re asking for, and that’s ok. You don’t need to please everyone and you can let some people go. Have confidence in your worth and stand by it.