Energy Exchange: Why NOT to Offer Your Services for Free

The argument against free services and free giving without any exchange of time or energy - it can seriously make you sick. 

by Sarah Petruno, Shamana

When I was my younger, teenage self, my grandmother caught me complaining about how I didn’t have anything to give as a gift. Whining and moaning about how I didn’t have anything so I couldn’t give anything.

She stopped me right then and there and said,

“You always have something that you can give.”

Then, she started describing to me her childhood. She was very poor and lived in Romania before immigrating to the United States during WWII. They had a thatched roof house and not much in the way of food, clothes, or any essentials, really.

She said that even when they didn’t have any food and the cupboards were bare, her parents would go outside, find a corn cob, and pop a few kernels of corn over the open flame if guests came over or if they needed a gift to give. They could also usually find a bag of tea to offer. 

“Even when you think you have nothing,” she said, “there’s always something you can give.”

Her family gave corn kernels as gifts when they had nothing else. This was their gift. 

When you give a gift, or exchange one thing that you value, in this case, food, for the valued presence of a friend, you make an equal exchange. Value for value.

You’re exchanging something that matters to you, food, for something that matters to someone else, perhaps their time, if they visited you.

While the item of the exchange is not the same for each person, the level of value can come pretty close.

When both parties feel as though they’ve been valued and shown value, there is no resentment. There’s an even exchange. There is no such thing as owing or favors for next time, because, the debts have been squared away in a single exchange.

Energy Exchange

When you give something, you’re giving energy. Depending on the thing that you give, the degree and type of energy may vary, but in any case, you’re sending out something that had an energetic cost for you. Food, time, training, education, etc. Anything you offer, you had to put effort into acquiring it, in order to give it. This is energy.

If you offer anything, without any requirement for exchange, there’s an energetic imbalance.

Think of it like a scale, if you continue to stack your offerings on one side of a balanced scale, very quickly, the scale becomes skewed and off balance. There’s a huge weight from your offerings, and when you give, and give, and give for free, with no return of value or energy, you run up a deficit.

When you offer your services for free, you create what’s called an energetic imbalance.

The argument against free services and free giving without any exchange of time or energy - it can seriously make you sick. 

There’s no equal energy exchange. There’s no energy coming in with the energy being sent out. To each person that you give your services to with no requirement for an exchange, you create a debt. An imbalance exists and continues to build.

More and more free services and gifts, and you run up your energetic deficit.

Pretty soon, you’ll run out of energy with which to give for free.

When there is no exchange for what you send out, energetically, you aren’t receiving any energy to make up for your energetic output.

Energy going out. NO energy coming in.

What happens then?

You become exhausted. Drained. Overwhelmed. Overworked.

You get sick frequently, illness arise, some of them serious, and you’re unable to continue offering.

You get resentful, angry, and upset that no one appreciates you, donates, or offers back.

You become LOW on energy, so you feel LOW energy emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

You might be thinking, “but Sarah, I want my services and offerings to be accessible regardless of income!”

Great. That’s fine. Perfect.

An equal exchange does not necessarily mean that you must only accept a set fee for your services, though some choose to do this. Equal means equal in terms of perceived value. $100 to one person may not seem like too much, but $100 to another person may hold tremendous value. For my grandmother, corn kernels held perhaps the same amount of value to her family as $100 would to another family. 

To practice equal exchange, all that’s required is an exchange. Something you value for something the other person values. You can request feedback in exchange for your offerings. You can set up a sliding scale depending on income. You can require a minimum donation, with each individual giving as much as they feel they can up to and exceeding your set hourly rate. Or, you can ask for the same rate to be paid by everyone because that’s what feels equal to you.

You can even pay yourself back, by giving back to yourself in the amount that you have given to others. 

The next time a potential client emails you and says that they don’t have anything to give in exchange for your services or offerings, think of the corn kernels. Think of your stacked scale. Think of the consequence you might bring on yourself by offering for free.

It might not be tons of money, but, there is always something to give. There is always something that can be offered in exchange for your work. Remember to keep your scale balanced.

With love,


LAST UPDATED: November 19, 2015

Disclaimer: By law, we are required to state that we are not a medical doctors, the information presented here is for education purposes only, and our advice is not meant to be replaced for medical diagnosis and/or treatment by your doctor. This website is run by a shaman and an herbalist. The statements made on this blog and website represent our view of the world given our unique set of life experiences. These are truths as we see and understand the world at the time the words were written. Statements here have not been evaluated by the FDA and are meant for educational purposes only. We cannot guarantee successful outcomes. Your health is your responsibility. Please view our full terms & conditions and site disclaimers, located in the webpage footer.

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