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Last week, I had the good fortune to attend a work conference in Chicago. It wasn’t your average work conference though. Attendees wanted to be there. In fact, their companies didn’t pay for them to go. Attendees paid their own way. And, they went to all of the workshops offered – even at the end, when everyone was tired.

The conference is called Podcast Movement, and its purpose it to help educate podcasters about hosting their own radio-like programs. It’s the second year I’ve attended and what struck me last year was how passionate this group is about their work. People told me how podcasting has changed their lives. A few podcasters even got teary eyed when they were talking about their shows. Have you ever had a job that got you teary eyed with positive emotion? Me either.

This year, the speech that stuck with me the most was given by Kevin Smith. You might remember Kevin from movies like Clerks and Mallrats. He’s the filmmaker who played Silent Bob. Kevin talked about two main topics: the importance of self-expression in your work, and doing what you love. Kevin said that he had the misfortune to get paid for what he loved to do early on in his career. For a time, it caused him to refuse to work on projects he loved, unless he was paid.

His talk brought up an interesting point. As we grow in our careers, we often opt out of anything work related unless we receive a paycheck. Why is that? It could be that our personal time has been more valuable, or maybe we’re just accustomed to our companies paying for things like training, mileage, and cell phones.

But, what would happen if we explored our career interests a bit more – even if we weren’t paid for it? Chances are good that new doors and avenues would open up for us that we had never thought of. We might even enjoy our jobs a bit more.

Perhaps we’d change careers altogether. That’s what many podcasters are hoping for. Most podcast hosts create a show about a hobby or interest they have that’s unrelated to their day job. To put together a show, a host will often spend a large amount of their own money on microphones, educational workshops, and technical equipment. Some people even install sound booths in their homes for recording. They spend many hours each week planning an individual episode, seeking our guests, recording, and editing. Rarely are they paid for their work – at least not initially.

This group learns and invests in themselves and their podcasts because they love it. They aspire to one day be paid to do it full time. Until then, they share stories about how podcasting has truly impacted their own lives for the better.

So, what inspires you, and what kind of work would you do for free? If money were out of the picture, where would you invest your time and resources to grow yourself?

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

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