david hieatt

Why it pays to work for *Free


Recently someone made me an offer of working for my new denim company for free. (Hiut Denim, which we announced yesterday) I accepted, of course. But it made me think a little about the importance of free. You see, I have always done stuff for free. And yet working for nothing had always paid me back handsomely.

In 1995, Clare and I started howies from our living room floor. In 2001, we paid ourselves our first pay cheque. By not paying ourselves, we were able to afford some wonderful people to help push howies on in the early days.

For us, it was an investment in the future. Up until we sold the company, we were never the highest paid people in our own company. To some, that makes us dumb business people. But I think it’s smart.

It meant we had more money to afford more good people to keep pushing us forward. I believe you should always be investing in your future. Even if that means you yourself go without for a while. Of course, when we sold the company, we were the ones who gained the most.

Now we run The Do Lectures. It pays 3-4 part-time people throughout the year to run it. (The best team I have ever worked with). And they are building something quite special. And I can tell you now, watching people grow in confidence is one of the most rewarding feelings you can have.

And The Do Lectures is starting to bubble. The Do Lectures is sold out this year. And there’s a waiting list forming for 2012. And this year, we will try a small Do Lectures USA.

It wasn’t always that way. The early years were a struggle. Selling a ticket was hard going. But overtime the word has got out there that it’s what we say it is – a life changing 4 days and nights.

This year will be its 4th year now, and of course, we don’t pay ourselves. We figure it will take a couple of years still before that happens. We pay ourselves from our savings instead. And by going without for a bit, it means we can invest in the future.

It means we can invest in a new website, invest in an app for the iPad, and invest in building a small, bright, great spirited team to run it.

Of course, The Do lectures has to be able to sustain itself.  A not for profit has to be run on business lines. So we watch each penny. And each penny that we save by being careful, we invest back into trying to make it into an amazing resource for the world to see for free.

This brings me neatly around to other reasons to work for free. It can reward you in many ways other than money: There’s reputation, there’s love, there’s learning. The list can go and on.

If I think of The Do lectures for me personally, I think of all the great people I have met. All the amazing talks I have seen, the great runs I have been on, the times I have jumped in the river with some insane brilliant people who really should be locked up. And along the way I have made some life-long friends. I am lucky as hell to even be involved with it, let alone to be helping guiding it on its way.

To finish up, my old boss Paul Arden used to say to us ‘ don’t chase the money, chase the work. The money will come’.

And by that, he meant do great stuff, do stuff you love, do stuff you are proud of, and let the economics sort itself later.  They always do somehow.


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Just when I was starting to think that I needed to attend this year's Do Lectures, I find out they're sold out. And I could stay with my family literally just up the road.

That's taught me about planning. I need to do more planning..!

Bought it the other day! Loved the Do video of Les. Listening to his podcast interviews too.

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