How I Work For Free (And Make Money Doing It)

 Photo:  @panavasquez

Working for free. To make money?

Some Background

Some of you may not know my love for marketing and social media content creation actually started back in college when a hallmate and I first started our band, The Band Concord.

TBC saw a pretty good amount of shows and audience increase throughout our run from early 2013 to around 2016, opening for acts as random as GZA from the Wutang Clan and Sage the Gemini, to The Maine, Sammy Adams, and Delta Rae.

Back then, we had a pretty basic knowledge of social media and digital marketing and knew it could help our brand grow awareness and gain a great following. People enjoyed our music and we enjoyed the people who enjoyed our music.

Something I will always remember and I wish I had put a little more thought into it was something our producer, Imad (some of you may have heard of him), said after we wrapped up our freshman album, Youth.

He said we should just put the album out for free.

What? After we had put two solid weeks of recording in, hours and hours of writing, and a large lump sum of our own hard earned cash to make this thing? No way! We were going to put it out on iTunes and sell physical CDs!

....and put it on Spotify. Lol. So we basically gave it away for free anyway...

I still think it makes sense to sell your albums. Heck, we were able to pay back the money to ourselves we had spent on recording and producing the album and then some.

But the idea of giving your work, your craft, your baby away for FREE seemed insane to me back then.

However, now I get it.

Let Me Explain

A direct example would be a rapper I highly favor, Chance.

Chance the Rapper has always given his music out for free. Look at him now. Seriously, go check out the stuff that guy is up to.

Gary Vaynerchuk always says the way he continues to win is that he gives away more than he takes. He goes by a 51-49 rule. He gives away 51% and takes 49%. He believes that if you can care enough to give away that much of your knowledge and expertise for free, that people will amass to you and you WILL be paid back in the long term.

Folks like Chance the Rapper can attest to that.

Further, I recently read an article by Entrepreneur.com blogger, Tim Denning, titled “The Answer Is This: Give It Away For Free.” that said the exact same thing.

But, How Can I Make Money Working For Free?

I’m not saying just do all your work for free... but maybe I am. You have to think about that 51-49 way of thinking.

I just started my company, Spencer Pugh Media, in January of this year.

I had relatively no portfolio and no proof that I could do the work that I was offering to do for people. So, I decided to start out doing it for free.

With each new client, I would shoot a video, take photos, offer marketing help for FREE.

And you better believe they didn't argue with FREE.

Now, each of those clients is a paying client and I’ve never had to negotiate prices with them. They trusted me and knew I could do work for them because I had already done it at no cost to them.

We created a strong connection before any "business" was done.

Other Ways To “Work For Free”

So, I’m constantly trying to figure out ways that my company and the companies that hire me to work on digital marketing strategies can be following that 51-49 strategy.

You may slap yourself in the head when you hear how common sense this is...

Content.

Yes, content. The substance that fuels social media channels and the pretty much the entire internet.

Photos, Blogs, Podcasts, YouTube Videos, Newsletters, E-books, etc. etc. etc.

Any bit of content that you can create that gives something to your audience that you expect nothing in return for is working for free and it shows you CARE.

Let’s See It In Real Life, Though.

Let me give you a real-life example that I am currently working on with one of my clients.

Imagine two brand new craft breweries that just started up in your town. (Not hard to do. They're everywhere these days)

Now, they are more or less completely equal. The beer is just as good at one as it is at the other. Their hours are the same, they both offer a trivia night and live music, and have good atmospheres in their tasting rooms.

However, one of the breweries works on perfecting their beer and that’s it. They update their audience on when new beers are released and when they are having events, but that’s about it.

The other brewery knows that they need to follow the 51-49 Rule.

They start a weekly blog where the brewmaster, the owner, and the bar manager switch off writing posts about the brewing process, the process of starting a brand new business, and about the craft beer culture, etc.

They put out a quarterly newsletter updating their closest fans on all the amazing content and events and beer they have released.

They even start a YouTube channel where they feature some of the artists that play at the brewery in acoustic, raw, one-take video sessions.

All this they offer for free so that their customers have more to consume other than just their beer. So that from 8am-3pm while the brewery is closed, their customers can have something to enjoy that revolves around something they love — craft beer.

These content publications also allow for a tighter knit community of customers. They can comment and give their opinions on the blog posts or YouTube videos, get to know the team at the brewery better, and ask questions that they’ve always wondered about the brewing world.

Now, which brewery do you think looks more appealing to the people of your town? The one that only cares about perfecting their beer? Or the one who cares enough about the people of your town to put forth the extra FREE knowledge and content so that they can better serve their customers?

Conclusion

It’s simple, really. It may take extra hours out of your day to write that blog post or create that YouTube video, but hopefully, this post has made it a little clearer how much that extra hour of work can matter toward your customer or client satisfaction.

However, if you decide to make this kind of effort, you MUST be consistent with it.

Here’s a blog post where I go into more detail about how to kill the content creation game and beat the social media algorithms. *nudge nudge* These tips also apply to youtube videos or podcasts or blog posts, etc.

Discussion

Have any of you out there ever worked for free? I assume this is the ideal for non-paid internships. You get a wealth of knowledge and portfolio builders by working for a certain company, you just don't get paid actual money.

Actually, I’m interested to know! If you’ve worked a non-paid internship, did you find it helped in your job situation down the road?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and I will see you all next week.

Thanks for reading!