How To Stop Doing Work For Free : Freelancers, Consultants, Entrepreneurs, & All Experts


Come hear my cry: Consultants, Freelancers, and Experts of Everything and Anything

In the few weeks I’ve received more messages and e-mails of a specific type than usual.

What type you ask?

The type that say how my profile looks like what they’re looking for to fill a role, and they’d love to interview me.

This sounds great to you?

Don’t be naive!

Sure, a small percentage of them genuinely have positions that they are looking to fill, and I might be a good fit, but about the other 90% of them?

They’re digging for free gold💰.

This is my guide to quickly figuring out if someone is trying to get your time and knowledge (services) for free, and how to turn things around so you come out with a client instead.


1. Check the person messaging you.

They should be in recruitment or HR.

Yes, there will be exceptions, but 90% of the time,

hiring managers don’t have time to search for their own candidates,

and if the company is doing well, they’ll have either an internal recruiter or work with an agency to fill whatever positions they’re hiring for.

Common face of a Miner 👹: They are a founder, CEO, CIO, CMO, co-founder, *insert any 2017 equivalent to the aforementioned*, or in the same “category” as you, ie. growth lead messaging me, a product marketing & growth consultant, or a product lead messaging a designer or developer.

2. Check the company.

Don’t just take their word for it when they tell you how well the company is doing and how exciting it is to be a part of it — Google them!

If you don’t see a posting for the job that you’re being contacted about, that’s a possible warning light🚨 .

If something the founder said to you is clearly untrue, there’s another warning light🚨 . One told me he was looking to hire the company’s first ever marketing person, when LinkedIn showed me that there had already been 2 in the role in the past year, but neither stayed very long🤦🏼‍♀️.

Don’t stop at checking their presence on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, because that will only tell you that they have enough time to manage their social media, and social media is all about putting on a show. In fact, there are many companies (aka. dinosaurs) that are still doing reasonably without any social media presence (they must have witches and fairies 🦄 working for them), so don’t focus here.

Instead, use some free analytics tools 🆒 to see behind the show that they put on (or don’t), and draw your judgement and conclusions from there.

Quickly analyze their website using tools like Similar Web Chrome extension to see how much business they could possible be getting (this will be less relevant for certain B2B companies like *insert extremely niched item* wholesalers).

Check out the company, founder(s), team and funding info on platforms like Angel and Crunchbase. A few minutes of browsing should give you a good idea of if they are in a place to pay a new full-time employee, or if they’re mining for free advice, ideas or work.

3. Hold back on long assignments 🚷.

It’s not uncommon for companies to use exercises to help filter through candidates. Seeing your work lets them quickly see how you would perform in the position, instead of waiting till the 3rd round interview when they finally uncover that you “sort of exaggerated” your skills and experience on your resume 🙅🏼 because you can’t explain how you get your keywords all those made-up Google campaigns you generate millions in sales with. *sigh*

Assignments are especially common for marketing and development jobs, but in most cases the assignments won’t take more than 15–20 minutes for the first round.

If you’re handed a 1 hour or longer assignment right off the bat, you might want to hold off on doing it till you’re sure it’s worth your time 🕓.

Companies that have longer pieces of work, or full or partial work days involved in the hiring process always pay unsuccessful candidates for the hours they put into the work,

and they state this when assigning the work, and usually have it written in their hiring process that’s either explained in follow-up e-mails or on their website careers page.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard of too many cases where teams assigned actual work to “interviewees”, and then used the work, and didn’t get back to the “candidate”, let alone pay them for their work. So be aware!

4. Hold back on meeting.

A Miner may ask for a copy of your resume to keep their ruse going, or maybe even ask to have a quick introductory call, but I find that often times

they go straight for asking me to come meet them for an interview, either at the office or for a coffee🚫.

Here your alarm sirens should be going off🚨 .

This person knows nothing about if you’re looking for new work, what you’re interested in doing next, what type of work you dislike, or anything that an employer typically asks in a screening conversation, yet they are ready to dedicate time for a physical meeting?⁉️

“Maybe they already are on 2nd round of interviews, or already have arranged all their interviewees to come in that week, and _____ just came across me and sees that I’ll be a better fit!”

*shakes head* No ❌.

This is a Miner and he/she is luring you to somewhere they feel comfortable so that you can spend your valuable time giving them free help, advice, and solving their problems.

5. Hold your stance in the meeting.

Alright, so maybe they scored a 60% on your radar till now of being a legitimate opportunity, and you’re in the meeting. *I’m talking about a first meeting, not after already having 2–3 interviews*

Here is where the truth always comes out — if you’re paying attention, that is.

They may ask a few questions about your background and skills and preferences, but most likely

99% of the conversation will be them grilling you:
  • *Explains current challenges* How would approach this?
  • Walk me through the steps of how you accomplish ______.
  • What would you do if ______ happened?
  • *Shows you reports or code, etc.* Show me how you would improve this.

They may have even asked you to prepare some “ideas” to present on how you would approach the role in your first few months.

*Free marketing strategy and implementation guide anyone? Free new product functions designed and organized backlog anyone?…*

In the meeting you might get the sense that the people talking to you are “really knowledgeable” about what you’re saying, and you’re probably right, they are — because that’s the role they fulfill right now, and you’re giving them fresh ideas and approaches to do their jobs better.

*sound of gold coins being dropped*

Sorry, friends 🙇🏼‍♀️, most likely you have been fooled by the Miner. Run 🏃🏼‍♀️!

Yes, it’s possible that this company has a very “rigorous” or “contemporary” hiring approach, but any responsible and professional HR or hiring manager I know will agree on this:

When interviewing candidates you are never supposed to assign real work. You are supposed to focus on the candidates skills and experience, how they would apply it to the role, and how they solved similar challenges (to those they’ll be facing in the role) in the past. You should also give plenty of time for the candidate to ask you questions.


There’s an infinite amount of ways you can respond to a Miner to still end up with a good result (not wasting your time, while keeping doors open in case there’s ever an actual opportunity).

The key is to not be accusatory 🛂 or harsh when you push back because there is of course the small chance you’re wrong, and this person did in fact seek you out with good intentions. Taking it personally or confronting this person will not keep them from trying the same thing with another “candidate”, it will not make them feel guilty, it will not stop global warming, and it will not cure world hunger.

Either way, don’t be afraid of saying these things either — you’ll be respected for knowing your value (if not by them, and not by your pet fish🐠, then just tell me about it 📲 and I promise to be proud of you).

1️⃣ Ask to know the specifics about the role to see if it’s something of interest: ie. Title, Pay range, Full-time/Contract. If they don’t give a straight answer, tell them you’re open to contract/freelance work and state your rates.

2️⃣ Ask about the previous person in the position, and if you can contact them for reference. You can of course find them on LinkedIn, but based on their response you should get an idea of if it’s worth your time.

3️⃣ If asked to come to a meeting with a complete presentation, or to complete a lengthy assignment or work day, ask them what their interview policy is RE: paying candidates for their time.

Tip: Format what you’re saying in a way so that they understand you are asking these questions because you value their time as much as you value your own.

In the end, remember:

In any situation, whether interview for a real job, or for a consulting or project or freelance or contract work, you are not the only one being interviewed. So is the company and team!

They get to grill you on your skills and experience and take your time, so make sure you’re getting all the information you need so that you when to disengage if it’s not what you’re looking for.

If you know they are just digging for your free work, don’t take it personally, or burn a bridge. Instead just:

✅ State your value,

✅ Your confidence that you can help them, and

✅ Pitch yourself anyways — Offer your services at an hourly or project based rate.

Your conversion probably won’t be the best in the beginning, but with practice you’ll get better, and eventually actually start convincing these miner’s to give up their game and pay you for the value you will bring them.


Freelancer? Contract worker? Consultant? Comment if you’ve ever experienced this and how you dealt with the situation.

HR personnel? Recruiter? How do you make sure that candidates time is valued as much as yours and the company’s during the hiring process? How do you make sure you get the right person for the job?

Miners: When will you stop mining?

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Success 🏋🏼‍♀️ and Avocados🥑,

👩‍💻 Anna (Ania)

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Published on my blog. #success #personal growth #awareness #leadership