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When Should You Work For Free?

One of my first businesses was private and group yoga instruction. It was my full-time occupation, and people could not believe that it was my actual job.

How do I know they couldn't believe it? Well, they would always ask me to "volunteer my time" aka work for free.

People tried to justify lack of payment by saying it would be "good exposure for my services". I even had one person tell me that they assumed I would teach for free or for donations, because "teaching should be fulfilling enough".

(The last time you purchased groceries, did they let you buy with fulfillment? If they did, I need to start shopping there!)

After closing the business and transitioning to teaching in community centers only, I took a long, hard look at my income streams from yoga. I felt like I did great work and had wonderful client reviews, so where did I go wrong?

The truth is I worked for free or for too little more often than I worked for my actually hourly rate. That fact is what took my business from medium five-figures to four-figures in only one year.


I know it's scary and shocking. You might be thinking, "Oh, my goodness...Is that I'm doing?" It might be. I can't tell you that.

I can tell you what I learned a lot from this experience about working for free, so you can hopefully avoid doing what I did.

I learned there are times to work for free, but they are few and fair between.


Do work for free when it is beneficial to you personally and/or professionally.

People like to entice you to work for "exposure" or "free marketing", but don't let them. They don't know your demographic! You do. You decide if it is worth it in that respect. If you aren't excited by the "free" opportunity, do not do it.

This is where I messed up. I said yes to every free opportunity and volunteer work. My calendar was booked out with jobs that I thought would be great for my community and great for my business. I was completely wrong.

I did not examine the demographic of those opportunities. If I had, I would have declined more than half of the opportunities, spent more time nurturing my current clients, and seeking paid opportunities.

Do Not

Do not barter your services away unless you are financially stable.

If your business isn't your main source of income or if you've met your monthly/quarterly financial goals, then barter away if you want!

Remember: a bartered service is not a paid service. It is a trade. Make sure the trade is fair.

Remember: Your skills and time are immensely valuable. Treat them as such.

Thank you so much for reading!

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