“You’re wiser to fill your head now if you want to fill your belly later on.”

Whether under the guise of experience or exposure, most of us have been approached by people who want to solicit our services for free. So while the sage advice that brilliant scientist Norman Borlaug received from his grandfather speaks the truth, at what point do we draw the line?

The issue has become so large that it has mutated into expectation. A recent study by the University of North Carolina found that only around 25% of students have taken unpaid internships in order to gain experience, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an artist who hasn’t donated their time and expertise to someone who promised them the world, and didn’t deliver.

Why? Because people don’t value free work, so by agreeing to those terms, you are effectively enslaving yourself to the notion that your skill isn’t worth paying for.

Saying no may seem daunting, but you are a professional, and deserve to be treated as one. So don’t let fear that you won’t be accepted into your industry because you didn’t want to work for free cloud the reality of the situation. As Gianni Versace put it, “Even Michelangelo got paid for doing the Sistine Chapel. To those artists who say they’re doing it for the love of art, I say: Get real”.

That doesn’t mean you should expect the world straight away. Millennials especially have a reputation for wanting more and more immediately.

You have to pay your dues.

In 2014, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), found that more than 60% of the graduates who were offered employment before completing their education had taken part in some kind of paid internship or placement program. The figure for unpaid interns was closer to 40%, but was still slightly higher than those with no experience at all.

Then there are stories like that of The 8 Percent founder Leela Cosgrove. Leela worked two jobs to make rent, knowing that doing so would provide her the means and knowhow to make the money she wanted.

“It’s all part of the experience of becoming a professional,” said Leela.

Experience VS Money? The answer is clear. What’s most important, however, is making sure you find the balance that works for you.

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