If You’re Good At Something Never Do It For Free

I know the Joker is supposed to be the bad guy in The Dark Night and probably serves as some sort of metaphor for the evils of capitalism but he had some goddamn sage advice:


As I’ve mentioned previously I hate the “giving culture.” Unfortunately most of us have been inflicted with this giving nonsense since our impressionable youths. Teachers harp on students to “share” (usually a euphemism for give away) their toys, pencils, and other earthly possession to any student who asks. In college students are suckered into working for free, often under the guise of an internship, because it will “help them build a resume.” Then when you get into the professional world you might be asked to work longer hours for no additional pay and be accused of not “loving your work” if you decline. Fuck. All. Of. That.

Let’s consider how you get good at something. Although there are a handful of anomalies that seem naturally gifted at whatever they pursue most of us only become good through seemingly endless practice. Successful authors? Almost all of them have written a lot. Skilled programmer? Almost all of them have years of programming under their belts. Bad ass martial artists? Almost all of them have been practicing their art(s) for years. There’s a reason the phrase “Practice makes perfect,” is so popular.

Why should you invest years of your life into developing a skill set and not expect some benefits? And why should you tolerate people belittling your investment by demanding you to give your skills away? The idea of investing is to see a return. That’s why, if you’re good at something, you should never do it for free. You put in the effort where others did not. Likewise, when you want somebody to do something for you then you should recognize their years of effort and not demean them by demanding they do it for free.

Exchange isn’t an evil plot for the haves to steal wealth from the have nots. It’s a mutual respect and acknowledgement of accomplishments. For example, I respect and acknowledge that a automotive engineer has invested years of their life in developing a skill I haven’t so I pay them to build me a vehicle. Likewise, many people seem to respect and acknowledge that I’ve invested years of my life in developing computer science skills and pay me to utilize them.

If you’re good at something you shouldn’t feel ashamed or awkward commanding a price for it. And you should feel free to tell anybody who tells you otherwise to go pound sand because there’s no reason for you to put up with that kind of insulting bullshit.

4 thoughts on “If You’re Good At Something Never Do It For Free”

  1. Well, “never” is a bit too categorical. I’m good at math, and I tutor my wife’s granddaughter for free. The point is absolutely valid, however, that we should never be guilt-tripped into “sharing”. Your last paragraph sums it up nicely.

    1. The mistake is thinking of profit only as monetary gain. Tutoring somebody at math isn’t a profitless endeavor if it’s somebody you care greatly about and want to see succeed. I’m running a mesh network at AgoraFest and my profit isn’t monetary but helping spread the ideas of agorism. There are many forms of profit, just make sure you’ll always making one when you hand out your skills.

  2. Makes it pretty hard for unskilled individuals to get anything like basic tutoring, or even just manuals for those autodidacts, at the start.

    One needs some way to get started.

    Or am I missing something?

    1. With so much knowledge now being freely (to you) available it’s easier and cheaper than ever to build skills.

      If you want mentorship apprenticeships are still the way to go. An apprenticeship is an exchange where an experienced individual teaches an inexperienced individual. The inexperienced individual gets to learn the skills from a veteran and the skilled individual gets a helper that is cheaper than hiring another experienced individual. Eventually when the inexperienced person becomes experienced they can either continue working with their mentor or they can go start their own thing (and probably hire an apprentice themselves).

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