Sick of working for free (or for way less than you’re worth)? Use these 3 helpful strategies to stop giving away your precious time, energy, and resources – unless you’re being paid *handsomely* for it.
It’s always okay to ask how much you’ll be paid.
Let’s get that out of the way first.
I know it sounds super obvious… but I also know from experience that it’s not always easy to do.
I can’t count the number of times I said yes to an opportunity – thrilled just to have the opportunity – without asking how much the pay was. Or even whether I’d be paid for it at all.
On the other hand, I also spent part of my career working at a yoga studio, reaching out to local teachers and offering them opportunities to teach at the space. I don’t remember one person ever asking me how much the pay was until it was time to receive it.
(I eventually had to start highlighting the pay rate in the emails, so they knew up front!).
Just because you love your work and you’re talented at it, it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be paid, and paid well.
If anything, your passion makes you more valuable.
It’s also totally acceptable to negotiate your pay, set your own rates, and turn down opportunities that don’t pay enough.
If this feels like scary stuff to you, it’s time to reclaim your worth.
1. Stop working for free
Just stop doing it!
Give yourself a ‘deadline’; a date after which you’ll no longer work without pay.
When we’re just starting out in an industry and we need to build our experience or reputation, almost all of us start out working for free to learn the ropes.
But there has to be a point where we say, “no more”.
Most of my clients who struggle with this have spent inordinate amounts of money to train in their field of expertise – whether that’s yoga, coaching, healing – and they deserve to earn money for these skills.
To stop working for free, we just need to say ‘no’.
Need a few tips on how to politely say, “no, I don’t work for free”? Download my free at-a-glance guide below.
This doesn’t mean you can never, ever offer anything for free again. Even just last year, I taught a free corporate lunchtime yoga class as a favour to a friend when their teacher dropped out last minute. As a result, I landed a corporate yoga contract to continue offering my services once a week for their clients.
However, I was only able to say ‘yes’ to this opportunity because I’d stopped working for free as my default.
I was being paid well for my teaching through other projects, so I could say ‘yes’ to a freebie from a place of abundance.
Take action: set yourself a deadline, right now. Resolve not to take on any unpaid opportunities from that date forward.
2. Decide how much your time and energy is worth
As an ex-freelance yoga teacher, I know how time-consuming it can be to:
- Plan classes and/or service treatments
- Travel to and from a venue
- Actually deliver the offer
- Create additional content and handouts
- Attract new clients and students
You have to work out whether your projects are paying you well enough, all things considered.
Every month, I used to sit down and calculate my earnings from the previous month, as well as the time I was spending to prepare for my classes, travel to them, and create content for my students.
For a long time, this was not a pretty picture.
But this practice was vital in helping me to identify which projects were paying me well, and which weren’t profitable enough for me.
It’s important to get really honest about how much time and energy you’re spending versus the money you’re receiving in return.
Then decide how much your time is actually worth.
Once you set your new ‘rate’, you can start to reduce or eliminate the projects which no longer meet this criteria (and create space for new, more abundant opportunities to appear).
Knowledge = power!
Take action: set your new hourly or per-project rate. Resolve not to accept anything less than your new rate for future opportunities.
3. Ask & reflect before giving the yes
If an opportunity arises – or you’ve fought like hell to seek one out – ask how much it pays. Always.
Before you say yes.
Before you get excited. Definitely before you sign any agreements.
It’s so important to ask this question and then take your time before giving a response. I’ve made the mistake of getting ‘caught up’ in the flurry of excitement far too often, saying yes to projects I should’ve given more thought.
I always regretted it.
This can be especially challenging if you have unresolved blocks around money.
The fact of the matter is that money is an important part of business, and if you’re running a business (even if it’s just a side hustle right now), then you need to be clear on the payment terms.
So please, always ask.
Then give yourself the chance to reflect on your decision. If a client really wants you, they won’t mind if you take a day or two to think it over – and it’ll almost certainly stop you from making impulsive, unwise decisions!
Take action: practice asking “how much is the pay?”. Resolve not to say ‘yes’ to any future offers without knowing what the payment is.
On a final note – you now officially have 100% permission to ask how much you’ll be paid for any future opportunities.