After being bought by AOL for $315m, it’s safe to call The Huffington Post one of the most successful new media ventures to date.

The HuffPo’s rapid rise and nine-figure acquisition is all the more
incredible because of the fact that much of the HuffPo’s content is
created by unpaid contributors.

Lured by the promise of being able to
write for a massive audience, experienced and often-recognizable
individuals helped Arianna Huffington build the HuffPo into what it is
today.

But as one might expect, the transfer of a large sum of money from AOL’s bank account to Huffington’s has more than a few HuffPo contributors thinking twice. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Newspaper Guild so miffed at the injustice that it’s asking its writers to form a “virtual picket line” until Huffington opens up her checkbook.

Is this justified, or are the HuffPo’s contributors experiencing a form of regret similar to ‘buyer’s remorse‘?

While there’s a strong argument to be made that HuffPo contributors should demand payment for their contributions to the HuffPo, let’s be honest: the real reason most of these contributors are now up in arms is AOL’s $315m acquisition.

Arianna Huffington and a handful of others got rich, and the contributors who provide some of the HuffPo’s most valuable content gratis received nothing.

It’s not surprising some contributors are bitter and realistically, Huffington is probably going to have to find a way to appease her most valued contributors.

But at the same time, angry contributors should probably reflect on their own decisions. After all, they provided their services with no strings attached even though they could have just as easily refused to contribute without compensation. If enough of them had refused to work without pay, the HuffPo would never have taken off. End of story.

There’s a lesson here for everyone: if you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, chances are you’ll eventually regret doing what you’re doing. In the case of the HuffPo, the value proposition to contributors was clear: you won’t earn a living writing for us, but your writing will potentially reach a substantial audience. This presented would-be contributors with a simple question: am I willing to work for eyeballs, or is monetary compensation required?

This value proposition hasn’t changed since the AOL acquisition.. The only thing that has changed: the perception of many of the HuffPo’s contributors.

Now that Huffington and her amigos are really, really rich, and a big corporation owns the site, monetary compensation seems appropriate, right? Unfortunately, this change in perception belies the fact that many of the HuffPo’s contributors clearly didn’t contemplate why they were contributing in the first place.

Whether you’re thinking about taking on a major consulting project, entering into a partnership for your startup or writing a guest post for a blog, you shouldn’t make the same mistake the HuffPo’s regretful contributors made.

Before making any major decision, ask yourself “Why am I doing this? What do I expect to get out of it?” Knowing that circumstances change, be sure to contemplate whether your decision stands firmly on its own, irrespective of changing circumstances, or whether your belief in its soundness is merely fact-specific.

At the end of the day, it’s worth considering that the best decisions are those that are made for the right reasons. The key to making these sorts of regret-free decisions: know why you’re doing what you’re doing.