Pay One's Dues Meaning
(idiomatic) To acquire status or to earn the right to enjoy certain benefits, especially through lengthy experience, hardship, or service to an organization.
Example: To outlay money which is owed as a membership fee or price of admission.
1871, Thomas Hardy, Desperate Remedies, ch. 8:
The carrier to Casterbridge came up as Edward stepped into the road, and jumped down from the van to pay toll. . . . The carrier paid his dues.
2005 August 7, Jeff Leeds, "A Money Scandal That's Rocking Hip-Hop, New York Times (retrieved 17 July 2013):
[S]he spent some time paying her dues at entry-level jobs.
2005 Nov. 6, Donald Morrison, "Still Enough Wrongs To Write," Time:
He too championed the anti-apartheid cause, paid his dues, had his works banned.