This post may sound like crazy advice, especially coming from someone promoting making and saving some. But, since hearing about it a few weeks ago, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of free work . This is something that I think would be great for someone who wants to improve their marketable skills, build a portfolio, make valuable connections, and find their way towards doing something that you love. I also think this is extremely valuable to 1) someone just out of college and/or 2) someone that can’t find a a job.
I was turned on to this idea by Charlie Hoehn, who released an ebook called “Recession Proof Graduate” (shown below). Charlie figured out how to get “free work” with some big names, which led him to gigs with Ramit Sethi, Tim Ferriss, and others. And he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s loved it, too. Here’s the full text for his ebook along with a YouTube video from his TEDx talk. Both are really inspirational with fresh ideas for graduates out there.
Charlie brings up a lot of great points about free work vs. internships. Here’s my favorite points:
1) Free work is much less formal than internships. This can work to your advantage to offer an employer/mentor a low risk, high reward tradeoff on your proposal. Essentially they have nothing to lose.
2) You can work remotely. This is great because you can work with anyone in the world from anywhere in the world. No need to be strapped down to a desk.
3) You don’t have you be an expert. You just have to be good at something. Charlie admits that he’s not an expert in the areas that he’s worked, but that’s okay. He just needs to know more than most.
4) You can work with awesome people on awesome stuff. With internships, you may be competing against a ton of people for one position. But, with free work, you’re not vying for one spot. The proposal is what you make it, and who you contact is completely up to you.
5) Eventually, you can make money doing what you love. It won’t come right away (see definition of “free”) and it might not be a lot at first. But, is there really anything worth going after that’s more rewarding that getting paid to do what you love?
I can’t think of any video that’s resonated with me more this year than the TEDx talk by Charlie. He hit the points dead on about taking a job that sucks and planning to make a change to something better but never actually getting around to it (see 4:45 in the video). Before we know it, we’re in our mid-thirties with a wife, kids, and no opportunity to take chances and take on free work.
As for me, I have a few things in the works for how I’m going to implement this. As I see it, there’s almost no downside. I have free time around my 9-to-5 job, and I’d definitely like to take on some interesting work that will also help me develop skills. Just about any of these skills you can learn online could be something you could find free work for and eventually earn money doing.
For new graduates out there that haven’t found a job you love (or haven’t found a job at all), this type of thing could shape your entire life. Forget about going after the big paycheck. Forget about sacrificing the next 40 years to get to retirement. In just a few months of doing free work, you could be well on your way to being happy doing what you’re truly interested in in a matter of just a few months. It may not be easy, and it’s much less enticing than a $40k paycheck, but pursuing free work building up to something amazing (and potentially extremely profitable) for the long-term.
What do you think about “free work”? Have you have done something similar?
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photo by: billaday