What Happened When I was Willing to Work for Free for Five Years

What Happened When I was Willing to Work for Free for Five Years


Before you read my story…..

I’m gonna bet that it does not end the way you think it’s going to.  OK?


Now I’m not dropping any other hints about how this is going to play out.


I love to work.  I absolutely love to work.  And I am a dreamer.  This is the perfect combination for succeeding in business, right?


I thought so!  So I became an entrepreneur and opened the most glamorous business I could think of… a young women’s clothing boutique.  I went in scared, but decided I would chase my dreams until they materialized around me and life became exactly what I wanted it to be.  That was nine years ago. 


I would love to tell you that my dreams came true.  But did they?


Again… this story isn’t going to end how you think it will… So let’s keep going. 


For five years, (or maybe more) while everyone else was 9-5in’ it and hanging at the lake on weekends, I worked all week and every weekend.  I worked when I was in pain, when I hadn’t slept, with a newborn baby in my arms, when I was depressed, when I was dealing with an injury and couldn’t walk, under stress, in marital crisis, if I had the flu, and all for free, for as many hours as I was awake during the day. 


And at the end of those five years…. my life looked exactly like I wanted it to.  I was surrounded by beautiful things, making my own schedule, I was the boss of other people, I looked totally put together, and when people asked me what I did for work, I could feel glamorous and say, “I own a boutique.”  So yeah, my dreams really had come true. 


And, BONUS!  My bank account was growing.  Every penny I made, I gave away.    


Wait.  What?  I told you…. This is not the story you thought you were going to hear. 


You thought I was gonna say that I worked for free so that I could build up my business to the place where it could pay me.  Instead, I gave away all my earnings.  For real, though, why did I do that?


Well, there were a few beliefs hiding deep down inside of my heart that were limiting me.  And I didn’t even know they were there.  Until three years ago, I joined a group of business owners called The Inner Circle, led by Sandi, whom I respect deeply.  She said something the other day in The Inner Circle kinda in passing concerning what she did to change her life.  “I began to look intently at all the things I did not want to look at previously.” 


Those words cut through me all the way to my heart.  I got into the group knowing I needed a change and expecting to become a better business woman.  But I did not expect that in order to become a better business woman, I also would need to look closely at all the things I didn’t want to see before.  But being guided and willing to do that has led to breakthrough upon breakthrough upon breakthrough for me. 


Ok so back to the limiting belief I discovered I held.  “I really don’t need the money I’m making.”  Sandi helped me translate this more accurately into: “I don’t deserve this money I’m making.” 


This thinking started young.  I grew up thinking that wealthy people did not deserve the money they had because they hadn’t really “worked” for it. They just had it handed to them.  This judgement against the rich is in our American culture and it was in my home.  I know now that’s a lie.  That limiting belief has affected my actions.  But it goes deeper than that. 


My husband has a Tile and Stone installation company.  And he’s built it up so that in recent years, we live comfortably.  In my mind, I didn’t technically “need” the money I got from running my store.  So once my bank account got to a certain point, I felt this nagging to give it away. 


In fact…. one of the first “big orders” someone made with me, I cashed that check.  Then the very same day, gave every penny of it away to a ministry I love.  I have done that more than once.  I’ve even emptied my savings account in a single check. 


I could back up this behavior with scriptures about giving everything you have to the poor and about how the love of money is the root of all evil.  And I wanted so badly to do right by God, that I just continuously gave it all away.


I know there is a reverse side to this that selfishly hangs onto every penny like it’s the last.  And I’ve done that at times.  That’s wrong too. To be honest, I am still searching for that middle ground to stand and I’ve accepted that this might be a moving target forever.


So what happened?  Did I stop giving away everything????


Yes.  And when I did, a ripple effect of seemingly unrelated things happened.  I started to enjoy a freedom and peace I had not yet found.  I became ok with saying no.  I got more done in less time.... can you believe I only work two days/week now!  I don’t worry as much about how others perceive me.  I see my time as my most valuable asset now.  And I view my health as one of my number one priorities.


But this is only ONE limiting belief that I broke free from.  Even in this month’s Inner Circle topic, Sandi has been talking about other mindsets, especially poverty thinking and how that shows up in business.  Even as far as I have come, I recognized this month that poverty thinking is still lurking inside my mind! 


In the past this thought would have thrown me completely off-course.  But I’ve built up my strength in confronting one part of this wrong belief.  So now I’m prepared to challenge the next one that shows up. 


Like I said, in the beginning I made a commitment to God and to myself to not stop until I see my dreams materialize around me.  I thought I would kinda arrive at my dream someday.  But here’s the freaking great thing…. every breakthrough I get, my dream just keeps growing.   So instead of settling on the small dream I had at first, I’m expecting to discover what I’m really capable of.


What are you capable of?  I believe it’s so much more than you think!!