It’s 2024 and it’s time for you to stop doing free work.

Now of course not all free work is bad. But let’s be honest about why most of us actually do it.

We do free work because we don’t feel like we deserve to get paid for it. Perhaps we’re trying to buy good favour and future opportunities.

Or perhaps we’re simply not sure how to ask for money.

At the root of it all is a mindset about how we see the value of what we do.

Let’s talk about this limiting mindset

Nearly always, we do free work because we actually enjoy doing it and we want to help people with our skills.

For example:

  • We take photos because we love capturing moments.
  • We design a brand because we enjoy the process of visually representing an idea.
  • We produce a song for a friend because we love music

Break the lie

But here’s what’s going on beneath the surface. We are often actively believing the lie that if something is easy or enjoyable for us to do, then it is not really true work.

Therefore we shouldn’t get paid.

Can you see how this is so deceptive?

Work is supposed to be delightful

This stems from all sorts of programming in our childhood and even in our churches.

We’re told that following Jesus is about hardship and to get anywhere in life you have to work hard.

We associate work with pain instead of with delight. Thus we give away our best work instead of charging for it.

There is of course some degree of truth in these ideas. There is always an element of every type of work that is less interesting or requires us to persevere.

But taken to an extreme, we can falsely believe that if we are good at doing something then we shouldn’t be charging for it.

No it’s actually the opposite.

The will of God makes you feel alive

God made you with gifts and talents. In fact who you are is a perfect match for what you’re called to do. It would be strange (and definitely cruel) for God to design you any other way.

The reason you are good at it is because you are gifted for it.

And that’s exactly why you should charge for it.

When you work for free, eventually you run out of availability or resentment will build.

Neither of those scenarios is good for the people you seek to serve.

Here are some action steps for you:

1. For chronic overcommitters

Write down a list of your current responsibilities including unpaid work. Now get honest with yourself and ask which are actually outside of your capacity to do.

2. For those afraid of conflict

There will be some areas that you can immediately let go of. Pick up the phone and apologise for having miscommunicated your availability. Be honest. People understand.

3. When you’re in too deep

You may have to finish a project if you’ve dug yourself a hole. But don’t make the same mistake again.

4. If you’d like to get paid

Simply explain that you don’t have the capacity to continue this work for free. Remember when you say yes to one thing, you also say no to something else. If the work you do is truly valued by the client/friend then they’ll find a way to pay.

Some final thoughts

You can still choose to do free work just to help someone or be a blessing (I do this). But just make sure you’re not doing it from a place of fear or scarcity.

Your work is valuable so place value on it. It will save you much disappointment and pain in the future.