First, indentured servitude was essentially a contract of cheap labor between a worker and a colonist. As the colonies grew in North America, so did the vast amount of land controlled by the various land companies. This land became too much to handle with the small population in early colonial America. Simultaneously, a dragging economy in Europe caused high unemployment and left many workers jobless. Combine that with the new era of traveling to America, and the opportunity arose to work yourself into the colonies.
The life of an indentured servant was not as harsh as that of the slave, but it was not an easy agreement either. They were typically overworked and treated severely with any wrongdoings. However, the prize for indentured servants was their eventual freedom. Moreover, once freed, the indentured servant was also given a parcel of land and food in many cases. The colonists had no right of ownership once the contract had expired. Thus, they couldn't simply refuse to give the indentured servant his or her freedom. The contract usually spelled out the length of time they would work, the provisions during the work, and the amenities awarded to them after the contract expired.