The Power of Free: Why It’s not All About Paid Gigs

The power of free workFocusing on only direct sources of income is the hugest (yet the wide-spread) mistake many freelancers make. It is quite understandable though: you get so much used to hunting for paid opportunities that you can hardly ever find time or enthusiasm to do anything else – especially something that you won’t see any immediate result from.

So let me share my own experience: it is your non-paid hard work that will allow you to grow personally and professionally and consequently grow your income exponentially.

I’d been freelancing for about 2 years before I was offered the full-time position at BlueGlass (where I still work from home by the way because I am not based in the USA). I’ve earned my living online for almost three years – that’s my full-time job (I am really happy with and would never want a better one). And throughout all these years I came to understand one most important thing: it’s the work I have done for free that accounts for my successful online career.

The biggest misconception of making money online is that it’s all about money.

It is not. Money is just the secondary index of your progress. In my understanding, freelancing is not about earning some quick money here and there – it’s about continuous growth of your income.

Your income grows together with your professionalism and your experience. You get paid exactly what your skills are worth.

It’s not about pure luck (spotting an accidental paid gig) – it’s about how good and well-known you are so that you didn’t even have to look for paid gigs.

The work you do for free is what makes your personal brand strong enough to let clients look for you (not vice versa). I for one spend only 10%-15% of my time daily actually working for money. The rest of my time is dedicated to doing work for free.

So what sort of non-paid gigs are worth your time and effort? Here’s what I do:

1/ Guest Blogging

Guest bloggingGuest blogging is by far the most powerful way to build a convincing online portfolio. Many freelancers tend to shy away from blogging on other people’s blogs without being paid – look, the first comment at Susan’s post announcing the great guest posting opportunity at Freelance Writing Jobs was the question if it was “a paying gig”.

Those who say they have no time for guest blogging miss the hugest benefits of guest blogging:

  • Build your personal brand: position yourself as an expert;
  • Network: build more connections online (meet new people and potential clients)
  • Become famous: ultimately it’s all about how many people know you and can recommend your skills to someone else. If you contribute to the blogs where the audience should get interested in your expertise, these will be highly targeted connections and they are more likely to turn into clients (or get ones for you) one day.

Guest blogging can result in your career boost – that’s what can really make a difference.

2/ Social Media Networking

Being “well-socialized” requires plenty of time and commitment. You can’t know many people and do without maintaining those relationships on a daily basis. Of course, you can’t be active on all social media networks out there but actively participating at the selective few of them is essential:

  • Get more people to learn about you: your social media profiles are your resumes: they demonstrate how influential you are;
  • Manage your online reputation: Google usually ranks high social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn and soon enough, searching for your name, you will see all your profiles and resumes on page 1 of search results. Imagine how well it will work to re-assure your prospect to rely on you.
  • Get social recommendations and testimonials. The power of social media testimonials is that they can be easy verified. Social media users are public figures and if they recommend someone – that’s the most convincing advertisement.

All in all, social media networking is a must but be prepared that that’s a hard work and it is unlikely to show quick results. Time is the most powerful factor in building influence.

3. Your Own Projects

personal projects

It is funny that I have always been eager to start my own projects – and I spend plenty of time working on them daily – but they hardly account for even 5% of my income. The major reason for why it happens so is that I never really aimed at earning money from them: Take a look at any of my personal websites or projects: none of them is monetized or runs paid banners.

So why would I need them then? The real reasons are:

  • Self-education: with clients’ website I’d never had the required freedom and flexibility. With my own projects I can do whatever I want – which lets me test theories, try new tools and be up-to-date with what is happening online.
  • Inspiration: being free and flexible allows me to get as creative as I want. This keeps me inspired and lets me enjoy my job.
  • Networking: building your own community around your blog or forum is a great way to get closer to people you meet via guest blogging and social media networking. My own sites are landing pages where all my connections can come to learn more about me, get closer connected to me and return whenever they need my services.

So what are your thoughts? Are these only paid gigs that may take you busy? How much do you work for free?

This is a guest post by Ann Smarty who has started My Blog Guest – the fast-growing community of guest bloggers. is also the exclusive partner of Freelance Writing Jobs – if you want to land a great guest posting opportunity at this blog, register at MyBlogGuest!

Post images by Jesslee Cuizon and Donald Macleod





10 responses
  1. J.B. Greeneville Avatar
    J.B. Greeneville

    Because nobody would pay for this gem: “And throughout all these years I came to understand one most important thing…”

    1. franky Avatar

      J.B. nobody is perfect and it might be interesting to know that Ann not a native English speaker is but nevertheless managed to build a huge brand, profile and earn lots of respect in the English online scene.

      It is sad if you can not look behind one grammatical error, especially because this is a blog and we do not pre- or post-edit. Are you sure that you have never published anything with a grammatical error in (and probably even got paid for)? I’m convinced that even with English as a fourth language I will find at least one grammatical error in everything you’ve ever published or send to an editor.

    2. Ann Smarty Avatar

      Sorry for sounding clumsy – yes, English is not my native but it is not the point of this write-up 🙂

  2. Raina Casarez Avatar

    So true! In all my endeavors, so many have turned out to be an opportunity for me to hone my skills. I’m leery of accepting payment for something I’m just learning or just starting out to do. Just like the business of fitness, there is a learning curve for new instructors that only experience can improve. No substitute for it and why should others pay for you to practice?
    Also, writing for the love of it reminds you that life is about joy, not just the bottom line.

    1. Noemi Twigg Avatar
      Noemi Twigg

      It’s a classic case of doing what you love. Sometimes, it really is NOT all about the money.

      Ann, for what it’s worth, you did get your points across clearly. I am sure you got people thinking. Thanks for the insights!

  3. Jodee Redmond Avatar
    Jodee Redmond

    Thank you for this most interesting post. I believe that the things we do for free will pay off later on and we shouldn’t always be focused on activities that will pay money right now if we want to be successful. 🙂

  4. Susan Gunelius Avatar

    Ann, great post! Thanks so much for sharing it here on Freelance Writing Jobs.

  5. Christina Crowe @ Cash Campfire Avatar

    I’m constantly hearing that guest posting is an effective way to get you out there, whether you’re a copywriter or blogger. I’m considering creating a series of guest posts for various blogs related to the niche of my own blog. Then, I’ll link my online portfolio to my blog to further drive readers over to my services. That should work out very well, since I’ll be attracting traffic not interested in my copywriting services to my blog, and then readers who might be interested in hiring me will be able to click over to my online portfolio.

    Terrific post! It really got me thinking about the endless possibilities out there.

  6. Ann Smarty Avatar

    Thank you for all the great comments! I am excited to hear my post got someone thinking!

  7. Damaria Senne Avatar

    While I appreciate what you’re saying Ann ( because I do guest blog, make my articles available through ezine articles and do my own projects) why is the percentage of the non-paid work you do so high? And how are you able to afford to earn a living wage ( I assume you are), spending so little time on non-paid work?

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