Saturday, July 12, 2014

When free work might cost someone

The High Calling is hosting a link-up about Working for Free, which I found through a post by Esther Emery. It's a topic that I've been mulling over in my head a lot lately. I didn't mean to get involved, but then I did. 


It's been nearly two years since I've had a paying job, by which I mean it's been nearly two years since my life hasn't revolved around when my son eats and sleeps. When I decided to quit my job to care for him, I was prepared for the fact that I would no longer be bringing in an income, and I haven't, not a single penny.

My blogging habit began recreationally, a free way to satisfy my over processing mind. But as is the case with creativity, the more you do it, the more you have to do it.

Over time my compulsion has even blossomed into other habits. In addition to writing, I now spend time collaborating with other writers, helping to manage content for a community blog, and facilitating a support group for a small but growing community of doubters. All of this I do for free, because I like it, I have the time for it, and I don't need the money. This is a huge privilege, one I am thankful for.

But recently, a new project has fallen into my lap. I see a need for what I am creating and feel compelled to fill it. It will take more time and energy than any of my endeavors so far. Even so, the truth is, I could get away without charging for it.

And the question I can't seem to get out of my mind is not should I do this work, or even will it succeed? The question is how much do I value the time and energy and gifts of myself and others doing this type of work?

Hard Work (Vicios I) by Eneas, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by Eneas 

I may have the luxury of offering my work for free, but not everyone does. There are people doing the kind of work I am hoping to do who are hustling each and every day to support their families without sacrificing their dreams. What does it say, not only about me and my work, but also about others' and theirs, when I offer up a product or service for free? If someone who would otherwise spend money to hire an editor or take a class or even purchase a book goes with my free option instead, might I be partially responsible for those lost dollars?

These questions or not simple to answer, but neither are they to be taken lightly. When I consider whether or not to work for free, I must consider not only the value of my own work, but also how my attempts to do good may deprive others of the support needed to do theirs.  


  1. First, thank you for participating in The High Calling link up as we all weigh in on this topic that isn't all that easy to parse, as you have pointed out.

    Working for free is a noble thing, but it does lower the expectations and even diminish the "Worth" of the labors. If I had a mechanic who was independently wealthy and gave away his services because he was simply - I would certainly give him all of my work, thus denying others their living.

    1. Yes, exactly David. Thanks for reading!