Why I Work for Free

Why I Work for Free

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I know part of personal finances is not only saving money but also earning extra income. Well, I currently have two side-gigs that I work without monetary pay.

One gig is volunteering at a charity-based bookstore. The other is writing for a nyc-based events website.

Neither are positions I had professional experience with prior to starting. This means I get to learn a lot at a low-risk for them (and for me!). If I find myself not enjoying web-writing as much as I thought, I can leave the position without the emotional stress of quitting a job. On the other hand, if I find myself loving it then this provides great experience to seek out paid writing work.

Although I do not receive a paycheck, I do receive other compensation:

  • Free Tickets
  • Discounts
  • Networking
  • Meeting People
  • Experience
  • Knowledge
  • Good warm feeling


Free Tickets/Discounts

By writing for the events website, I receive opportunities to go to events for free or at a discounted price. I can get into most music & comedy events in the city, movie premiers, broadway show previews, etc.

The bookstore gives all volunteers 50% off on all books (dangerous!). Also, if you volunteer at a specific event, you get to see that event for free.

Networking/Meeting People

At the bookstore, not only have I made some great friends with other book nerd volunteers but I’ve also had interesting conversations with book nerd customers. This is a great way to meet people if you’re new to a city. They will most likely share your interests & values, and it’s a less awkward social situation than the workplace can be at times.

While the writing gig is usually done from my couch, it still has it’s advantages for networking. It is a rather large site that many people in nyc are familiar with and looks great on a resume or in a writing portfolio.

Experience/Knowledge

The best part of writing for the website is it provides real-world web-writing experience. I’m given assignment deadlines, writing guidelines, and a real sense of professional writing work. As someone who has not written professionally or majored in a specific writing-major, this experience is essential if I did want to seek out more writing-related paid work in the future.

In both gigs, I am learning a lot of new skills. I’m learning how to write concisely while keeping my voice. I’m learning so many facets of the book business I had never even thought about before. The bookstore gig, in particular, helps me work on some social skills I’ve been lacking. Both offer skills that I don’t experience in my paycheck job, so I really like the sense of being more well-rounded.

Good Warm Feeling

Luckily, my paycheck job has normal 9-5 (on the dot) hours. This leaves me a lot of time after work to myself. Surely I don’t need six hours of free-time every single night. I like being able to fill my time with good deads. Neither position takes more than 4-hours a week each. Even on the days where I work at the bookstore or complete a writing assignment, I still have time in the evening for myself.

Working at the book store, especially, since it is for a good cause, really does make me feel good. I feel great being around books for four hours, moving around on my feet is a nice change of pace from my daily desk job, and volunteers means the bookstore can give more money to the charity rather than paying a lot of employees. Although I may be exhausted at the end of the night, I never regret it.

What are your thoughts on working for free? Do you volunteer for any organizations? Does working for free undermine financial growth? Share in the comments below.

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7 Replies to “Why I Work for Free”

  1. I think it’s awesome that you do this! I need to get off my butt and volunteer as well. I’m looking into the Humane Society and a local pet food pantry.

  2. I’m a big proponent of “working for free”. When you’re first getting started in your career (or trying to figure out what you want your career to be), volunteering and interning is a great way to get your foot in the door, make contacts in the industry, and possibly land a job.

    As you become more advanced in your career and have time outside of work, continuing to volunteer or explore new avenues can give you a break from your day job, provide a creative and/or social outlet, push you out of your comfort zone, and introduce you to new people.

    I don’t see a downside at any point!

  3. Great idea, loved reading this! I keep thinking of places I could/should volunteer my time, especially to pick up some experience in areas I’m particularly interested in. Now I just need to do it! I loooove bookstores and totally understand the double-edged sword of 50% off.

  4. Is that the actual bookstore you work at in the pic? It’s really cool…I love those old book stores even though I do not dedicate enough time to read myself. I get antsy for some reason. I think writing for the events thing is a great idea. I’m sure being in NY you can really take advantage of the free events you get to go to…which I’m sure aren’t always cheap!

    1. Yes, that is the bookstore! It is such a beautiful space, they even rent it out for weddings! See: http://i.imgur.com/TA3fnXR.jpg, http://i.imgur.com/apmvm3s.jpg, http://i.imgur.com/4qQFR8x.png

      The events site actually caters to cheap events, nothing posted is over $20. So not only do I get to go to pricier events (like broadway show previews) for free but I’m also in-the-know for cheap/free events around the city! It’s really a win-win opportunity and I enjoy the writing to boot.

  5. Oh, I know that bookstore. That must be fun.

    I actually started and ran my own volunteer-run 501c3 for animal stuff for 5 years and that helped me get a f/t job in animal welfare so I fully understand what you’re saying. Lately I don’t do too much outside of the animal world so it’s all vaguely work-related, even if I work a million hours per week.

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