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There is no long-term value in working for free. Ever.

Yes, it is easier to believe the reason we are not earning as much as we’d hoped to is the economy, the competitive nature of our industry or market, or that we’re forced to work with clients who just don’t get what we do and therefore aren’t willing to pay us what we are worth. But it’s simply not the case.

Work isn’t free. Ever.

This is especially true when you don’t even charge the client for it. (At least for the most part.)

There’s absolutely no value in doing work for free, not even “for the exposure” although a lot of people continue to fall into this trap anyway. Yet many of us give our work away far too often only to be left high and dry wondering if there’s ever going to be any hope of monetizing our business-related activities.

It should be common sense that if you do work for a client (any work, for any client), eventually you’ll get paid for it. Payment may not always be in dollars, but there needs to be payment for a value exchange to take place.

No matter how much or how little it puts into your bank account, it’s almost always a matter of how you charge and on what basis you do it. While there may be differences of opinion in terms of what is the right way to charge, what we can all agree on is doing it wrong leads to unwanted and uncomfortable situations between you and your clients.

Most people start their service business with an unrealistic fantasy of working few and flexible hours supporting long-term clients on interesting projects for which they are well paid (and possibly obscenely well paid). But, what they typically end up with is long hours, clients from hell, and barely enough income to pay the bills (if they are that lucky). And then they’ll say to me, “I know I should be charging more than I do but…”

There are all kinds of reasons entrepreneurs tend to offer free services and low prices hoping to attract new clients. But, this strategy historically brings you the wrong kind of clients.

In fact, lowering your rates and underpricing your services does both you and your business serious harm. Possibly even more harm than working for free! It’s one of the most common ways you cheat yourself out of what you deserve to be paid for your work and professional services.

Stop this madness! It’s a fast path to emotional and financial bankruptcy.