Just because you’re not getting paid doesn’t mean you’re working for free. I cannot begin to tell you how many stories, articles, videos and favors I have done for free but in return have gained exposure, credibility or experience that money cannot buy. What’s more, those rather menial tasks that I’ve done for free are the keys that have unlocked doors that are propelling me towards the very place that I want to be.
In his new book Quitter best selling author Jon Acuff talks about “The fountain of free” and his first opportunity to speak for the Dave Ramsey organization. (If you haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey think Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity etc) Jon was a budding author and speaker and he was torn as to whether he should ask for a small fee in exchange for his services.
After much debate he decided the opportunity was worth far more than the few hundred dollars he might have made as a speakers memorandum and a funny thing happened; they asked him to come back again. And again. After his third or so speaking engagement, Dave Ramsey offered Jon the opportunity of a lifetime to join his team as a speaker and author. Jon struck gold by offering his services for free.
The moral of the story and what Jon illustrates is that just because you’re not getting paid for something you’re doing doesn’t mean you’re working for free. It can be difficult to shift your thinking away from dollar signs and compensation but if you consider the opportunities that might just be afforded you if your work, material or name just happens to land in the right persons hands, the sky is the limit.
One of the greatest opportunities that I’ve had since beginning this journey of pursuing my dream has been contributing to ESPN.com. It took me over a year of emailing and hounding the editor with articles I would happily contribute for free just for the opportunity. The response was always the same, they just didn’t have a need.
Then a funny thing happened. A friend and personal hero of mine who is also a professional motorcycle rider asked me to help him produce a video following the 2010 X Games. I was happy to do it and didn’t even consider charging him. When I finished the video I forwarded a link to my contact at ESPN and he responded with “Wow this is awesome! We’re going to start using you!”
I couldn’t believe it. I’d been producing videos like this for years and writing articles for various publications and websites for just as long but this was the credibility I needed to show him that I work with some of the sports mainstream athletes and that I’m capable of producing quality work. A few months later I found myself in front of the camera interviewing a couple of the biggest names in my industry for ESPN. All because I was willing to do something for free.
You never know who is going to open the door until you knock. Contact that magazine, website or publisher and ask them what you can do for them. Submit your work to anyone and everyone that might have an interest in putting you out there in front of the masses. I would typically charge a few hundred bucks for the video I did for my friend but first of all he’s my friend and secondly, it provided me the credibility to open a door I had been trying to open for over a year.
The next time you get discouraged about doing something for “free” think about the potential opportunities that might lie ahead and smile to yourself as you pick up the phone or push that send button.
If you'd like to see the clip from ESPN click HERE. Definitely one of the greatest opportunities that has come my way over the last couple of years.
Photo Credit Cliff Talley ESPN.com