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Home » Lifehack & GTD, Lifestyle Finance, Personal Motivation

Would you do your Job if you Didn’t Get Paid for it? (reader poll)

Last updated by on 21 Comments

“If you wouldn’t do your job for free, then find a new one.”

I’m not sure who originally came up with this notion, but I’ve heard a number of my colleagues and a number of writers say it recently. Or similarly, they will say:

“If you don’t love what you do, then quit.”

There are idealists. And then there are IDEALISTS,  I suppose.

I’m not sure where this meme came from, but it’s been spreading like wildfire in the workforce.

The ideology goes something like this:

  1. We spend a minimum of 8-12+ hours per day doing our jobs.
  2. Life is short and precious.
  3. If you don’t love what you do, you might as well move on until you find something that you do love.

And when they say “love”, they mean, you love it so much, you’d do it for free.

Novel concept, right?

do what you love

Now, obviously, there is recognition that in order to survive you need to make an income. I *think* that those who repeat this meme want you to assume that you are financially independent. In other words, money is not an objective (otherwise, who would do a job for free?). That kind of goes back to the older meme:

“What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money?”

Admittedly, that’s a bit different because we’d all play Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!, watch football, drink beer, and dine out at luxurious restaurants, no? That’s why the newer memes are more focused specifically on careers.

And they sound great, in theory. But there are obviously fears, doubts, and other considerations that one may decide to take into account before dumping their job. For example:

  • Is it realistic in this economy to leave a good paying job?
  • Is it realistic when you’ve spent years of your life and hundreds of thousands of dollars only to find that you do not like your career?
  • Is it realistic when you have a job and so many others are struggling to get one?
  • Is it realistic when “the grass is always greener”?
  • Is it realistic when you have a family to support?
  • Is it realistic when you are tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt?

It always seems to come down to money.

Or maybe money is just the excuse that is preventing us from taking risks and living more fulfilling, satisfied lives.

We can save that discussion for the comments.

For starters, I’m curious to see how many of you are actually loving your jobs so much that you’d do it (within reason) for free. Please fill in some color commentary on what you do if you answered ‘yes’. If you answered ‘no’, what kind of job would you do for free?

Would you do your job if you didn't get paid for it?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Christopher A. Eirich says:

    I’m an energy trader. Sure, I know, the money is better in my career than most. But I’d honestly do the job for free if I could still survive and have some comforts. That being said, I don’t attribute this to the job itself, but to the incredible team of people I have the pleasure to work with.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      That’s a great point, Christopher. I’ve often found that it’s not so much the job itself as it is the relationships you have with the people you work the closest with. If you work with people you consider friends, it can make an otherwise drab job much more enjoyable.

  • Holden says:

    G.E., I think it’s important to keep in mind that some jobs aren’t dream jobs, but they can help us get to dream jobs. I had a certain job in mind for a few years, while working for a job that would get me there. If I didn’t hang in there, and gather the experience from the (not super fun) original job, I wouldn’t have been able to quit said job, to move onto the job that I have now (and that I’d still do if it didn’t pay, as long as needs were met)!

    Take the long term approach with this saying!

  • Craig Rinde says:

    I own a creative print and design business. I think I am one of the lucky few to be working at a job that I truly love doing. My wife and I took the plunge a couple years ago pretty quickly after finishing our education when most of our friends were entering the professional workforce. Many of our friends are starting to find out that being a professional and working lots of hours isn’t what they thought it would be.
    On the other hand, my wife and I are having the time of our life working incredibly hard and building our business. I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else and even if money wasn’t in the equation I would still be doing what I am doing. Although, I might spend some more time working of artistic projects rather than projects that are highly marketable :) .

  • Jamie says:

    I’m a personal trainer and fitness instructor. I love what I do although (as with most jobs) some days I really don’t want to go and do it for 12 hours. But I would definitely work out with other people, give them exercise tips, and organize group runs, even if I didn’t get paid for it.

    I think the key to the equation is monetizing what you love, in some way. I make money from my blog, and I love doing it. True, it’s not much money. But I’ve found a way to make something that was already worthwhile even MORE worthy to me.

  • CJB says:


    If I knew what I would do for free, I would go do it.

  • Micah says:

    I’m a photographer. I would do my job for free, if money were out of the equation (I could survive without it, or were financially independent). It all boils down to the need to create, I guess. I’m looking to become a curator. I might do that job for free, as well.

  • Brian says:

    I am a structural engineer and I would say that I LIKE what I do. If money were not an issue, I can think of several other things that I would rather do than wake up early every day and spend 9+ hours in the office, such as drink beer, watch football, play softball, read books, go on hikes, travel.

    The reality is money is something I need for my family, and the above listed things that I enjoy doing do not produce money. So I have to work, and my job is something that I do enjoy, but not something that I would do if I weren’t getting paid for it. I do not dread going to work. What I do is interesting, and I really like the people that I work with.

    If some people are able to get paid for something they would be doing anyway, that’s great. But for the rest of us, I think you have to find something that you LIKE to do.

  • Ryan @ LifeFreshOut says:

    Great article, it inspired one of my own for tomorrow. What I realized reading this is that the way I’m going to think about it is by looking at what I do in my spare time when I actually want to be doing something mentally/physically challenging. I love playing videogames, but when I have energy and want to just do something, that’s not what I do. I might try and fix something or bring an idea to life or something else like that. That’s what I love doing and that’s what I should be doing.

  • Jatnna says:

    It’s funny how I came up on this post today.
    Earlier I was asked to shoot a small acting company and their production of Rocky Horror. I will not be paid, but I’ll get a free show. Although it would’ve been nice to get paid, I realize I love to shoot, and I constantly need new images for my portfolio. Economically, I understand everyone is hurting and, honestly, I love that I get the chance to help out the arts.

  • Paula @ says:

    I’m a freelance writer. Sure, my job has some drawbacks … I stare at a computer screen all day. My fingers hurt from typing so much. I work alone, rather than with comrades.

    But no one becomes a writer for money. We do it for love. And I’d do my job for free if I knew my expenses would be taken care of.

  • Ellle @ Odd Cents says:

    I work in the Accounting field and I would definitely not do it if I was not getting paid. I do believe that one should love or at least have a great liking for one’s job. After all, we spend most of our “awake” hours at work, preparing for work and recovering from it. But in this financial climate, needs versus wants comes into play and they are determined by one’s financial responsibilities.

  • Liz says:

    Before I got my current job I was a serious job hopper. But I never looked at the help wanted ads again once I started in this field. And it’s been long enough – longer than I’ve ever done anything else – that there were help wanted ads in the newspaper when I started. I love my job so much that I skip on my way in – no matter the hour. But do it for free? No way. I have so many hobbies and interests that I would happily fill my time without work.

  • If I love my job and I am enjoying it, I can do it for free. Money is not everything. True, we need money to survive this crazy world but I guess I will find another job on the side to keep me alive and surviving.

  • Gally says:

    I remember hearing in a movie once “That question is flawed, if everyone abided by that idea there would be no janitors because no one would want to clean up other people’s $hit.” That logic made alot of sense to me, and could also be applied to other occupations, not just janitors. The unemployment rate is high, and the economy is down, suck it up and be happy you have a job.

  • Tiffany says:

    I am an archivist (look it up). It took me a master’s degree and a little over $100k in student loans to get here, and I still don’t get paid too much, but I love what I do, I love my coworkers and my boss, I love having a job where I do not exist soley to put money into some CEO’s pocket, and I love feeling like what I’m doing MATTERS in the grand scheme of things.

    Thanks to the Public Service Forgiveness Program/IBR repayment, the debt is not so crushing and I am able to live a simple lifestyle while still paying my bills, setting aside for retirement, and getting enough to eat. I don’t have expensive tastes.

    This is my first full time job in my field, and while it is not exactly what I had dreamed of while in school it’s still pretty great considering the overall job market, and a great stepping stone towards that dream job, as I think someone else already said.

    If I magically became independently wealthy, sure, I would still do my job as a volunteer- I just wouldn’t come in before 10am. 😉

  • Derek says:

    I am an IT Business Analyst and website developer, and I enjoy the challenges of solving peoples problems and creating beautiful, efficient-to-use websites. I get paid for this.

    I am also a non-profit board-member for, helping with garden projects and web design. I don’get paid for this but also really enjoy it.

  • Lianne @ The Wise Living says:

    YES, definitely. I love my job and I’d still do it even if I weren’t paid to do so.

  • wesley says:

    im going to scool for AC and refrigerators but i would like to teach people how to play guitar ive even done that for free

  • alex says:

    I wish I could do my job for free…I personally absolutely hate money I think it does allot more harm in this world then good. The problem is society doesn’t allow it…as in…you may literally die without money…If you want to hunt your own food you still have to pay for a hunting license, if you want to build a shelter you must pay for the landm..then there’s another issue…we cant all get jobs that make us happy…one cpuld argue that if you cant get hired you can start a business except that as well takes money…yes life is short…but unfortunately it’ll be even shorter when you quit and cant find another job…sad sad truth


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