I believe in Karma, but I can’t rely on it.
Karma doesn’t help me earn anything toward my own retirement. It doesn’t pay my unexpected bills or improve my quality of life. It doesn’t allow me to modify our home to accommodate my husband’s disabilities, nor does it care for my family and their immediate or long-term needs.
However, I will work for free when the rewards are worth it.
I have decided to take money out of the equation whenever it makes sense to do so. Why? Because there are different kinds of compensation outside of any need for cash.
Barter, for example, makes good business sense. If you have what I need and I have what you need, we should talk.
Sometimes the rewards of working together are harder to obtain than cash. Here’s another example of when I’d consider working for free:
If I could work with someone I admired on a fun and challenging project, I’d certainly consider doing it for free. I’d especially do it if the project was unlikely to reap financial rewards for anyone involved and particularly if it helped veterans or their families. But fair warning! If I get even a hint that you were going to stand to profit off this work, you are barking up the wrong tree. I’ll call you out on the bullcheet. The founder of the last nonprofit I worked with appears to have gained double in her own business while I lost in my own personal capital. That will never happen again.
So what am I currently doing for free?
First, I save taxpayers millions of dollars by caring for my disabled husband 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I do not get respite, nor do I expect compensation. My duty and commitment to my husband comes first. Every day that I care for my husband is a day that I am not earning toward my own retirement.
Second, I give advice to help veterans on my “Mailbag” page for free. No tricks, no gimmicks. This is all based on a “pay it forward” system. I just launched it in March 2011. Check back often for updates.
And heck, let’s be honest…this blog you are reading is “free.” No one pays me to do this. So why would I bother? Because it has rewards I can’t obtain any other way. I’m a writer by trade. This is great therapy for me and a great outlet to bring awareness to issues that matter to me. You can’t beat that kind of deal.
But I have said — and will continue to say — I do not work entirely for free.
Is your business profiting (or does it stand to profit) off the information you want from me? That’s work. You will pay me.
Is it something I would not be doing anyway that takes time away from my family, my pursuits, my interests or my hobbies? That’s work. You will pay me.
Are you using phrases to disguise the fact that you want my time, knowledge, experience, skills, opinion, background or perspective for free? Drop it. That’s work. I’ll call you out on it and you will pay me.
Here are some lines I will no longer fall for:
1) “We don’t have a lot of money.” My grocery store, mortgage lender, electric company and the IRS don’t believe this is a viable alternative for me not paying them. Sorry, I can invoice you or you can make an offer that I might consider.
2) “I just want to pick your brains.” Sorry, I don’t sell consumer packaged goods – my product is what is in my brain. Just like you can’t borrow a car from a dealership or appear at a restaurant to eat for free, you can’t have access to my brain for free.
3) “This will provide you with good exposure.” Nope! This will provide YOU with good exposure. If I didn’t have exposure? You wouldn’t want me. You are trying to get to the people I know, the people who read what I write, and the people who think my opinion is worth something. You want to get to the people who trust me and you want me to expose them to your product/client/service.
4) “There is someone else who will do this for free.” Okay, thanks for sharing that. I hope they are happy to work for you. In the meantime I will work for people who value what I bring to the table – not those hoping to make a dollar off of me while my family goes without the things they need. They need me more than you need me.
So what’s the alternative to paying me or offering me a reward for my time? You get to walk away empty-handed.
I have given thousands of hours of my time for free and was given on top of all the sacrifices I’ve made to get to where I am. I’ve finally reached a point where I can do what I want to do, maximizing my happiness, minimizing discomfort, without having to answer to anyone.
And to think I have all that Karma still coming to me?