Work for Pay, Not Free

The zeitgeist regarding labor is smarter now than it was just 10 years ago as it comes to work, pay, et al. As with all things, it could be better.

One of the ways thoughts on employment could be improved is to work for pay, not for free.

Here are points on how:

Experience

Experience is garbage. The person offering “experience” in exchange for cold, hard cash cannot go choke on that “experience.” Why? Because it holds no tangible value.

I.e. experience is “free.” Do not work for “free.”

Denied a Raise?

Say a coworker is earning more for the same (or even less!) output than you, or a new employee is offered higher compensation. You attempt to negotiate a raise but are denied.

What now?

Either:

  1. Quit (but only if you have another job lined up, are financially set to take a well-deserved break, or do not require the wage-slave benefits like health insurance)
  2. Get cut by cutting back the day-to-day effort (collecting that sweet, sweet unemployment insurance)

Do not wait! Act now for your own benefit. Check out some other options and help on cutting back:

Get a Pay Cut?

First, what counts as a pay cut? A few things:

  • Meeting or exceeding performance expectations, not getting a raise despite that.
  • Not getting at least a cost-of-living increase in wage (as of May 2022, that is North of 8.3% – anything less is wage theft by the employer).
  • Demands by work to work more.
  • Org or team changes that decrease the quality-of-life at work.

If any of the above or similar occur, it is time to cut back in proportion to how the employer has cut back on you. A few ways to do that:

  • You can always quit if able (see above).
  • You Earn Commission
    • Raise your rates, especially for this employer.
    • Retain control of your work (e.g. a photographer keeps the unwatermarked originals, an artist holds Photoshop files, programmers source code local to themselves).
    • Aim to drop the employer (if 80% of pain comes from 20% of clients, drop that 20% sooner than later).
  • You Are Hourly
    • Clock out on time.
    • Do 0 (zero!) extra.
    • Take your breaks on time and use your paid leave regardless of business needs.
    • Reread your job description; when told to do something outside of that agreement, decline to do it (unless the employer is ready to immediately renegotiate the agreement, with an immediate pay-bump for you 😉)
  • You Earn Salary
    • Over-estimate the time it will take to do things, making sure your work takes up that extra time. (I find an extra 30-40% is a useful tool if previous performance has not been recognized.)
    • Again, do nothing extra – it is not in your job description to organize events, work on other products or projects, or in your incentive to work on anything that hasn’t been agreed on with management for how you will be judged (i.e. Objective Key Results – OKRs – used to define pay performance).

What Else?

Work advocates like the hustle-hustle-hustle icon Gary V speak to “getting in” for time vs. any other compensation, even experience.

E.g. serve coffee and run packages for the CEO for free – that may work for a select handful with a decent safety net, but that willful enslavement is not something I can ethically get behind.

And if an employer ever offers or suggests working for free, they have done you a great favor: the employer has shown you they cannot be trusted to act fairly or honestly for you. You might still do business, but you will be fighting everything the employer says because everything they say will come at a cost to you.

So if you have other ways to recognize employer exploitation or how to maximize your earnings under subpar conditions, share them! Your work has value, so work for pay, not free.

Published by

Jimmy Chattin

Processor of data, applier of patterns.

One thought on “Work for Pay, Not Free”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s