This is a great article and I agree wholeheartedly with almost every word, except this part. You should have left out “for free”. You later mention not devaluing what you do, but working for free is the most devaluing thing you can possibly do.
I get your point though. Rather than nitpicking about an extra hour here or there, play the long game and use your good will to get introduced to your next big opportunity. But “free” doesn’t need to be anywhere near that equation.
Working for free is fine if you’re working for you. As you said, you spent hundreds of hours writing for free on Quora, but that’s not client work is it? That you building your personal brand and credibility. Of course you do that stuff without pay. That’s far different than offering free work to clients.
You may have done a lot of free writing, and that exposure eventually led you to a good career in it. But I equate that strategy to the worrying trend of startups trying to grow users before growing a sustainable business. For those who’s userbase explodes AND they are smart enough to find a way to monetize that before their investor’s money runs out, then they succeed. But so many of them never do, and fail. I’d choose to build a business that’s profitable from the start. And that sustainable way of thinking is what we should be encouraging freelancers to cultivate. Working for free is not sustainable.