Like many people, I became a fan of Malcolm Gladwell after reading The Tipping Point. Not only did I find his ideas fascinating (and applicable to the Joyfully Jobless life), but his storytelling made the book fun to read. So when I saw an article in Time magazine about his new book, Outliers, I eagerly read it to learn about his latest exploration.

This new book looks at extraordinary success. Gladwell contends that talent and, even, genius aren’t enough. Instead, he cites what he calls the 10,000-Hour Rule which says that great achievement is most often the result of constant practice––about 20 hours/week for 10 years, to be exact.

Can you imagine devoting yourself to something that passionately? Would you do it for free? Many people won’t, of course, and consequently will never actualize their full potential. 

The ones who are willing to put in the practice often dazzle us once we learn about them. I was reminded of that when I read a recent edition of Valerie Young’s Changing Course e-zine. She had this little quote from Rachel Ray tucked away at the end of the mailing:  I did 30 Minute Meals for five years on local television, and I earned nothing the first two years. Then I earned $50 a segment. I spent more than that on gas and groceries, but I really enjoyed making the show and I loved going to a viewer’s house each week. I knew I enjoyed it, so I stuck with it even though it cost me.

When I first decided that I wanted public speaking to be part of my business, I made it my policy to accept every invitation that came my way–whether money was attached to it or not. I knew that the only way to polish my speaking skills was in front of other people. And if someone was giving me the opportunity to practice with a live audience, I was going to take it. I even found a volunteer gig as a backstage tour guide at the Guthrie Theater, which gave me additional speaking practice.

Eventually, I began to get calls where I was asked, “What is your speaking fee?” That’s when I turned pro. (That’s not quite accurate; in my own mind, I had turned pro right from the start. It just took a lot of free talks for it turn it into a reality.)

In Phil Laut’s nifty little book, Money is My Friend, he says, “An easy way to create an abundance of clients is to give away your service at the beginning until you have more clients than you can handle or until people force you to accept money. If you don’t like your business well enough to give away your services, this may be an indication that you are in the wrong business. When you have an abundance of clients, it is a good idea to continue to give away a portion of your services, even if you have to refuse the money.”

Think of it as an investment. Think of it as sweat equity. Think of it as the unsung road to success. By all means, think seriously about what you would do for free.

I think the best investment that you can make it to start a business that is so much fun that you don’t care if you go broke. With this approach, you can be certain of success. ~ Phil Laut

No Responses to “What Would You Do For Free?”

  1. Sue Sullivan

    Wow, Barbara, I think this topic is key to me going to my next level. I’ve been in the old paradigm where you go to school to learn a skill, then you get a job doing it and get paid. But when it comes to me marketing the skills I haven’t tested in a job, I don’t feel confident enough to accept money. So I’ve been stuck. Now, this makes sense to me — doing things for free to bridge that chasm between just learning a skill and taking payment for it. Thanks!!

  2. Ellis Hubbard

    Thanks Barbara for another inspiring blog. I agree that one must remember that to learn a new skill, you have to be willing to give before you get; be before you do, so you can have what you want! Free before fee is the exact right concept.

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