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June 10, 2009

When should I work for free?

After a stint of freelancing throughout Latin America, and with a few marketing discoveries still in front of me,, I decided I needed to ground myself a lot further in the field of reliability engineering.

I won't bore you with the details, but I knew there was a guy from the UK who was the industries clear thought leader. 

So I started up an online relationship with this guy through forums we participated in, and I also started to build my own brand up in terms of emails, newsletters and print articles. 

After a while I approached him to tell him I wanted to do business with him in some way, and that I was willing to work for nothing for the chance to do so. 

Over a period of just under 18 months, in the UK, Mexico, Europe and Asia - I served the most intense apprenticeship you could imagine in that particular field. Every day I was right in the firing line, and every day I was able too draw from the experience of my mentor, as well as his close circle of gurus. (Who were also pretty darn impressive thinkers)

And I didn't receive a cent for it. He paid expenses like airfares and hotels, and I dealt with the rest. 

He did okay out of it. I was at around 95% billable during the entire period, and we were charging pretty good rates back then.

But I got far more out of our fact - it made my career. I learned far more than I would have otherwise during the rest of my working days.

Today, I have argued University professors to a standstill, I have been able to use my experiences and knowledge to blaze a trail across many countries, roles and industries, and I have been able to work my way into a position as a trusted technical advisor in an area that is incredibly complex - and unbelievably serious if it all goes wrong. (Like "people dying" type of serious)

Best investment I ever made...ever. 

Got some time on your hands now? Any "investments" you could make? Any opportunities to be mentored by the best in your area, field, or related area? Or additional training, learning, studies, volunteering?

Any way you could spend today to get great returns tomorrow? Wonderful profession we work in...

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