earn one's keep
- (idiomatic) To perform satisfactory physical labor or to provide other worthy services in return for remuneration, lodging, or other benefits; to support oneself financially.
1880, R. D. Blackmore, chapter 41, in Mary Anerley: A Yorkshire Tale:
- Being a very strong, active man, with gift of versatile hand and brain, and early acquaintance with handicrafts, Christopher Bert could earn his keep.
- 2005 July 1, Alan Riding, "A Curvy Klee Museum, Sprouting From the Swiss Hills," New York Times (retrieved 9 Mar 2009):
- Klee also left home to make his name, moving in his late teens to Munich, where he studied art, earned his keep as a musician and, in 1906, married Lily Stumpf.