Why You Should Stop Working For Free

A few days ago, someone reached out to hire me.

stop working for free

Image credit: www.twitter.com/nofreejobs

He runs an entertainment type blog and wanted me to write for him.

When I asked him if he had seen my freelance writing rates, he said he had but as the conversation went on, it became apparent to me he hadn’t.

That’s normally a big red flag in my book, but man must chop so I continued the conversation and told him my rates.

When he expressed concern that my rate was “too expensive” (which it isn’t, by the way), I quickly told him that means we wouldn’t be able to work together right now and shut down the conversation.

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I didn’t wait to find out what or how much he could pay. I didn’t negotiate at all.

I shut it down fast.

Because any client who wants to quibble over my prices is not a client I want to work with.

And also because to me, any rate less than my rate is the same as working for free.

And free is bad for business.

Why You Should Stop Working For Free

You’ve probably experienced this with whatever hustle you’re into, digital or offline.

You start the hustle, do a few free gigs for “friends and family”, hoping they hook you up with paying gigs down the road (which they don’t, despite many promises to do so), all the while struggling to pay your bills and stay in business.

My advice – Stop doing free gigs. Period.

Here’s why:


#1. FREE gigs will kill your business.

There was this quote I saw at a barbing salon back in Lugansk, Ukraine sometime in 2013-2014 that went something like this:

“Please pay for your haircut.

Business cannot continue if friends and family don’t pay their bills”

Too true.

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The more “free” gigs you do, the less likely your business is to grow.

And we all know paying customers are the lifeblood of any business.

#2. You won’t be taken seriously as long as you still do FREE gigs

About 3 months ago, I was at a conference in Abuja, and a speaker said something that stuck with me.

She was talking about paying for courses and said:

“If you don’t pay, you won’t pay attention.

Now, she used it in the context of business courses, but if you think about it, you’ll find that the flip side is true as well.

I had to find out the hard way when I offered to work for free for 6 months with 5 entrepreneurs looking to start and grow their online businesses.

It started off great, but as of today, only 1 out of the 5 entrepreneurs still communicates with me.

If you want to be taken seriously, FREE is not an option.

#3. FREE has no value.

There’s a line in the Bible that goes:

“Never throw pearls before pigs.”

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Now, I’m not saying clients are pigs (even though some of them are) but the point is to never give away something of real value cheaply, not to speak of giving it away for free.

Unless you’re not confident in your ability to deliver on your services, there’s absolutely no reason to give it away for free.

Remember, people generally don’t value what they get for free.

#4. People will suck you dry when your services are for FREE

I’m not saying this to sound pessimistic.

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It’s just the reality.

While you offer your services for free, every Tom, Dick or Ekaette will hit you up for you to serve them for free. But put a price tag up, and see how quickly they disappear.

Many of these people are not your target customer, but they’ll ask for your service any way.

You’ll end up wasting a huge amount of your resources serving people who are not your customers. And they’ll happily suck you dry while your services are free.

#5. Time is Money

It sounds cliche but it is true.

The time you spend working on free gigs trying to impress people you don’t like who aren’t even your target customer to begin with could be better spent serving your customers or creating products that will meet the needs of your customers.

Wasting time not serving your customers is bad for business.


Ultimately you’re in business to make profit. Anything not connected in some way to that overall goal is a waste of time. Working for free (without a strategy for getting paid or rewarded) is one of those things.

In other words, stop working for free.


What do you think?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Keeping it 500,

Tomi Joshua

2 thoughts on “Why You Should Stop Working For Free

  • Ni Oju Elegba, Only if he had known your story….
    But wait o bros, Never knew you had been to Ukraine and you still roll with small boys like us?
    Abeg, remember me on your next missionary journey ohhh.. At least make son of man still get something to add for him CV. Heheh..
    The other day I was at my friends shop when a lady came and requested for some graphic job. She did her best to illustrate what she wanted and my friend which I believe had a great idea of what to produce.
    But on getting to the money talk, she was counting stones. She was trying to use friendship as an avenue not to pay for the job.
    After watching the scene too long, I had to cut in.
    It isn’t a crime doing stuff for free but it should not be abused and taken for granted.
    While reading your write up some stuff came to me regarding my personal life. Thanks Tomi
    I saw you’ve reached the maximum number of blogs you were going to review for free on Naira Land. That’s pretty okay though.
    Thank Jah, I made my request just on time. #Wash!

    • Yeahh, that’s the thing.

      If you don’t put a price on your work, people will use you. And they won’t pay.

      And that’s bad for business forreal.

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