There’s an ongoing debate that flames up every few months about the ethics of unpaid internships. While detractors argue these internships disproportionately benefit the privileged — as only people with means can afford to work for free — a counter argument can be made that these roles are a great way for young professionals to demonstrate their talents in a field they may not have necessarily worked in the past. Indeed, there’s validity to both points.
Interestingly, entrepreneurs face a similar tradeoff when deciding whether to operate at a loss in the early stages of their entrepreneurial journeys. Not all entrepreneurs have the luxury to be able to withstand this hit, but for those who do, it can be an amazing opportunity to form connections and showcase your worth. Set a hard cap on how much time you’re willing to spend and set out with the goal of demonstrating how irreplaceable your value is. You’ll have created a new client in no time.
The downside to this business model, though, is that by working for free, you’re effectively setting the price point of your services at 0 dollars. Even if a prospective client decides to work with you, they’ll never pay you what you deserve, because you set the initial bar at Free.99.
Fortunately, there’s ways to get around this. If you ever work for free, the goal should be to work smarter not harder:
You may not be getting paid for any of this work directly, but it’ll translate to conversations and conversions down the line.
Whatever you do, just don’t undersell your value. It’s the least you can do to ensure your prospective clients don’t look at you like the way shoppers look at the free sample vendors in Costco.
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