“Wait, all of it?” I asked.
“Pretty much,” my new friend said. “A lot of these pieces won’t be timely next week, so I just put them up for publications to use for free.”
He was discussing the merits of ghostwriting. This was a guy who’d made a living being invisible. Up to this point, things were going well.
Still, he was worried. His needs were changing, and he wasn’t getting paid enough. Although his expenses were low, he had other goals, more plans, and bigger dreams.
So the question lingered, as it does over every creative person trying to make a name for herself.
Should I work for free?
Here’s the good news:
The world is wide open now. You don’t have to have a publisher. You don’t need a marketing team. You aren’t required to invest thousands of dollars into distribution of your own material.
In this new world, you are capable of reaching millions of people for free.
Now, for the less-than-good news:
You have never seen 99.9% of the books on Amazon. The percentage is probably similar for musicians mixing tracks on Soundcloud. Creative people are giving away what they consider to be everything they can and making $0 (or less than that).
So should the budding creative dive into what looks like an endless ocean of sub-par, self-produced garbage?
My answer is yes.
I give away almost everything I do for free. Why? Because I don’t want to be a writer. I want to be Todd Brison. Anybody can write well. Nobody can be me. Since that’s the case, my name, my reputation, and my readers will take me further than my words ever will.
Even the columnists for big name publications, those who are making plenty of money to get by, aren’t known by a lot of people. They are simply an arm of the machine which employs.
There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. If I worked for the New York Times, I imagine I’d be perfectly comfortable with the knowledge that my massive credentials would earn me a free ticket most places.
However, I am not at the New York Times.
I do not have Ivy League credentials.
I did not grow up with money or connections.
Knowing this, I must create a massive tidal wave of recognition directly from the people I want to connect with most, not a gatekeeper who holds the keys to those people.
Maybe you’re the same way. Maybe you feel at a disadvantage because of where you came from. If that’s the case, I beg you — work for free. It’s one of the cheapest ways to learn new things and one of the easiest ways to get used to producing at a high level because you must compete with everyone in the world.
More importantly, working for free enables you to control your own destiny. While others are standing still, you can move forward, defining your own voice, your own brand, and making your own money.
Or, you can wait for someone to pick you.
I choose action.
But what if I run out of ideas?
This is a valid concern.
If you give it all away for free, what’s left?
The answer is everything.
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