My close friends will tell you that my biggest bugbear is being expected to work for free. Try as I might to rein my frustration in, occasionally I have been known to go ‘pop’ on being told someone wants to ‘pick my brains’ on how to establish a really great social media campaign. Over coffee. Or a glass of wine.
Now, for the record, it’s not that I don’t want to help. Really, I do.
It’s because I want to help that I’ve decided to at least double the number of blog posts I write this year, and to appoint regular expert contributors to this site in order to widen the appeal and spectrum of information.
But the rest of my working day is spent working with clients …. who pay me to do so.
Maybe this is a problem that businesses who trade in actual commodities don’t have; after all, I can’t actually remember being in a restaurant and thinking because I’d had a bit of banter with the waiter that I could have my meal on the house.
Certainly in the early days I did an awful lot of ‘speculative’ work that ended up having a financial cost to me once I’d factored in travelling and accommodation expenditure. But I told myself that it would be good experience and possibly valuable exposure to an untapped market.
There does come a time, however, when the requests to work for nothing keep coming in that you realise the brutal truth:
They don’t want you … They want someone that they don’t have to pay.
So many times I’ve heard “we have no budget for this”
And that in turn leads me on to another dilemma, namely do I really want to work on projects where getting the best person for the job clearly isn’t the priority? Because let’s face it, if quality was important they would have budgeted for it.
If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, my advice is to honestly answer this question:
Will doing this help progress a project or initiative of mine?
It may be that you’ll be introduced to new contacts or opportunities as a result, in which case it would make perfect sense to agree to it.
But if it’s purely a case that you’re doing someone a favour (and saving them money), then I’d think very seriously about declining.
To be blunt about it, try and imagine the other party offering their services or product for nothing. Would that be likely? If the answer is ‘no’, I suggest you make that your answer too.
There are always exceptions of course, such as charity events and the like, but continually working for nothing will only ever guarantee you two things: a full diary and a pile of unpaid bills.
Ultimately it’s worth considering the value someone will place on your contribution if you offer it free of charge. If you’re continually willing to place a price tag of zero on your time and skill, then what are you saying you’re worth?
As of this moment on, make this your mantra …
“You want me? Then pay my fee.”