We've all been there you're asked to sponsor an event, help out a family member or friend but my absolute favourite is the amount of "exposure" you will get for the work you produce. They want you to market their event in the weeks prior, reserve a big part of your day and donate the work you’ve poured your heart and soul into for a good part of your life – all for a vague promise of “exposure.” Event coordinators frequently ask me to come speak at their event for free saying that I can promote my business or I might get future clients from it. It's exasperating when the people who want design & printed media value it enough to seek you out – but not enough to pay for it.
Clients should pay you if you provide a product or service. Friends and family should understand that doing work for them for free will pull you away from other (paying) projects. Most businesses should have a budget for working with collaborators especially if seeking services outside their remit. When event companies approach us they will already have been paid. So there is a budget it’s just not getting through to the right people. Clients need to know, that payment is expected in return for our time, and for putting our brand and expertise behind their brand.
It’s exciting when you get a chance to get in front of many new potential customers and see your name on promotional material. I get it. But the people who are approaching you have their own agenda. They want their event to be successful. They want to make money. They may or may not have your best interests at heart. That means you have to be smart and protect yourself from people who’d take advantage of you (whether they mean to or not.) It’s absurd to offer sponsorship, exposure a TWEET, or even worse – the chance to maybe be considered for a Tweet — to a professional business in exchange for hours of work. If a company wants you to do what you’re trained to do, they need to pay for it in monetary terms.
You can’t use exposure or favours to pay the bills. When was the last time you paid for electricity with Tweets? Working for free hurts your businesses’ profitability. Let's be honest we are doing this to make money and pay the bills. Every business has time spent on administrative tasks that can’t be attributed to paying work, but when you start working for free, your unpaid time increases significantly. All of a sudden, the price you charge for a project doesn’t work out to nearly as much money per hour of your time because you have more unpaid time in your work week and less money coming into your bank account. We are in business to make a profit, we did not decide to set up a charity organisation we decided to set up a business to become self-sufficient and depend on no-one for our income. Remind yourself of that fact the next time a person or business offers you exposure or requesting a favour.
If you are a specialist in your field you should absolutely under no circumstances work for free, it undervalues you as a person and questions your credibility. There are huge benefits to hiring outsourced workers, consultants or specialists. Savings, knowledge, flexibility and focus being just a few. Major brands like Google Paypal, Microsoft and Facebook have discovered these advantages and frequently advertise for positions to fill by tapping into some of the best talent who prefers to work as a freelancer rather than a regular employee. Learn how to confidently find and follow up on leads, build relationships with influencers, and turn introductions into paid opportunities.
I love partnering with start-ups and those trying to get their business off the ground when they reach out. However, the reality is that the vast majority of those trying to get us to work for free should have a budget in place for our services. These are well-established businesses and individuals. I honestly don't mind helping out once or twice. However when you have a few events under your belt and are clearly making a living from these events then please don't ask me to provide my services for free or sponsorship. If like me you’re a creative entrepreneur, you will have people asking you to donate your work. It’s just part of the territory. The key is having the tools to make sure that the opportunities you agree to take really do benefit you. I will never reach my goal of financial freedom if I don't charge for my expertise and services and for that reason I won't work for free anymore and neither should you. If a client asks you to work for free feel free to send them this link and suggest collaborating, that way both of you prosper.
Good luck on your journey, if you enjoyed reading this piece then maybe you would like to read my post on successful collaborating and consider sharing.
And if you need more convincing Google is looking to work with small businesses. Check out their Google Diversity program here:
These guys explain it brilliantly, the lighter funnier side of expecting someone to work for free: