I used to volunteer my expertise by mentoring teens from disadvantaged communities on the use of technology and entrepreneurship. As a small business owner, I believe that working for free doesn’t make sense unless it’s for a good cause.
When I first started out in my career, I used to perform free work for friends and family under the guise of promoting myself to a wider network. I was promised professional exposure, more paid business later down the road, and free advertising for my business. You know what I got? Nada, nothing, zilch!
I used to respond to every RFP that I could find. I’d spend hours, if not days, making sure my proposals were impeccable and created beautiful designs for the required custom work samples. Imagine my surprise when a potential client used my amazing “work sample” design and had their cousin develop the project – changing nothing but the colors and a few very small details to avoid any legal issues. I quickly learned that responding to anyone and everyone was not the best strategy. I was basically giving away free ideas and knowledge that others benefited from.
Following a training session on digital strategy, an attendee thanked me for taking the time to answer questions. She wanted to know my rates and how we could work together. Her genuine appreciation made something click in my head. Her enthusiasm helped me appreciate the value of my work, expertise, and time. She became one of my best clients.
Here are some tips to help guide you to making more profitable decisions when it comes to friends, family, and cheapskates in general:
VALUE YOUR EXPERTISE
I learned that I was willing to do work for free because I really didn’t value my skills. I was well versed in technology, especially web development. Like an attorney or a doctor, I possessed valuable knowledge. I came to realize that I should be compensated for all the late nights I spent learning various programming code as well as my unique creativity. Today, I don’t feel an ounce of guilt about getting paid for my services. You should realize that your clients aren’t just paying for your final product. I spend a great deal of time, which I’m sure you do, on planning, research, and brainstorming that deserves fair compensation.
FIGURE OUT THE CLIENT’S BUDGET IN THE BEGINNING
The truth is that most people are on a budget. You’re offering a quality product that meets a demand. The amount of time, supplies, and skill required to create delicious baked goods should not be minimized. Your friends and family wouldn’t go into a local bakery and walk out without paying simply because they were on a budget or couldn’t afford it. If so, you may need to find new friends!
You may not be a big business but you are still a business. Ask your friends and family in the very beginning about their ideal budget and how much they plan to spend. Honestly share your set costs for their desired services. This way it’s completely clear where you both stand on money in the beginning. If they try to haggle you on the price, jokingly suggest that you aren’t in business to lose money.
LEARN HOW TO SAY NO
“Sorry, I can’t afford to do it for that price.”
Honesty is the best policy. Be honest with your friends and family. They will respect your directness and most likely will decide to pay up or move on. Either way, your problem is solved and they won’t likely come back for freebies.
P.S. Check out this great website: Should I work for free.com