Should You Work for Free? Yes. Here’s Why.
Have you ever been offered to be paid for doing some kind of work that you would have gladly done for free? Can you think of why you would have done it for free? Now, if you subtract that reason, would you still have done the work for free?
All work is motivated by the pursuit of value, but the challenge is this: value can differ greatly from person to person. (Especially when bridging the gaps between generations and cultures.)
Yet, when we think of work, the common thing we think of is working for money. Trading our service for extrinsic value. Why is this? That’s because money is relatively simple. It’s a concept that’s agreed upon by the majority of society at large.
Giving work in exchange for money, or extrinsic value, is transactional work. This doesn’t just apply to money, it applies to anything that one person has that can be exchanged for another person’s service.
Transactional relationships are relatively easier and safer to manage than other relationships. This is because they hinge on the transaction itself. As long as we honor the deal, things tend to work out.
Transaction v. Transformation
But when you would happily serve for free, is there still something that you expect in return? I believe that there is. That you expect to see some sort of change in the world – big or small – as the result of your service.
This requires faith. You’re not exchanging your service for something the other person has. Instead, you’re partnering in service with others towards an agreed-upon change.
This is intrinsic, as opposed to extrinsic, value. It happens either when our transactional needs are already met, or are put on hold for a time. As opposed to a transactional relationship, this is a transformational one. You are serving in the belief that it will bring a change in someone or some environment.
So really, you wouldn’t do the work for free, you would just be working towards a transformation, instead of a transaction.
What are you working towards?
If you’re working only towards transaction in life, you may be experiencing some lack of fulfillment. You long to see certain people, certain things, get transformed. You long to see the kind of transformation that transactions cannot create.
On the other hand, if you’re working only towards a transformation in life, most likely you’re aware that your resources are limited. You may have already reached their limit. Also, you may have become deeply hurt by the people you serve with. Due to disagreements in regards to the specific transformation you’re working towards, and the way to go about reaching it.
How to pursue both extrinsic and intrinsic value
I encourage you to seek a life that involves both transactional and transformational pursuit. I’m not talking about some sort of 50/50 transaction/transformation balance. I don’t think that’s possible. I am talking about acknowledging your need for both intrinsic and extrinsic value. The need to change the world and pay the bills. And once this is acknowledged, I encourage you to create a strategy that honors each type of value.
This might mean you:
- Work in the office five days a week (transactional),
- but coach a children’s sports team two evenings a week (transformational).
Or maybe you’re:
- working with an aid organization in a third-world country (transformational),
- and you can book some time for yourself once or twice a week to email home and get help posting some of your unused belongings for sale on eBay (transactional).
How Captain America saved my family
Once I decided that I was going to do some design work for a non-profit organization. I had no intention to charge for this work, I was working towards transformation. However, at the same time, our financial situation was difficult, and we had some significant car repairs to take care of.
I decided to sell one of my most prized possessions – the original artwork for the cover of Captain America #171. It features both the Black Panther and the Falcon and the cover. Pursuing this transaction was a surprisingly positive experience. I found a buyer, and I enjoyed working with him. The sale covered our expenses for that month, and allowed me to keep on my transformation work.
Change the World, Pay the Bills
These are just a few examples. But regardless of what this looks like for you, I encourage you to be aware of the need to work towards change and towards money.
Is there anything you can do this week towards serving for a change in your community? Is there anything you can do this week to generate more income for yourself? Let me know in the comments below!