By April 23, 2014 Read More →

More on working for free

Working for freeYesterday’s post on the question of working for free

got lots of response on Twitter

and so much helpful feedback

that today I’m sharing readers’ thoughts on the subject.

Many people said that they would always consider working for free if asked by a charity or good cause.

The chief difficulty arises, though, when the request comes from a commercial business, large or small, that charges for its own services and so might reasonably be expected to pay.

I am regularly approached by agencies acting on behalf of national and multinational companies who ask me to publish material promoting their client. When I reply with my charges for sponsored posts I either never hear from them again or they tell me there is ‘no budget’. For me no budget = no post.

But not all situations are so clear-cut or so easily dealt with at arm’s length by email. Below is a summary of the replies and resources I’ve received from readers.

How you might respond when the subject of working for free is raised:

1. Several readers replied that although they wouldn’t work for free, they would consider a skill swap with another freelancer.

2. Or you can make sure you get something else back in return for your expertise – Rosie Slosek of One Man Band Accountants said that very occasionally she will offer a discount in order to get some feedback on a new product.

3. It seems that most people sometimes get asked for ‘a quick bit of advice’. It’s up to you to decide how much time you’re willing to give to balance being helpful and being exploited.
As Kay Heald, an HR consultant says, ‘there are an unfortunate few who seem to ‘take’ more than they ‘give’ and ‘a bit’ can easily turn into ‘way too much’!

4. Paul Tansom of Aptanet pointed out that in IT people can ask for help while dangling the carrot of paid work. The husband of Francesca Geens of Digital Dragonfly works on large IT projects:
‘there can be lots of consultancy to get through a quoting process so that is tricky. We now manage the process carefully to reduce the amount of time asked of us before we get a decision.’

5.Candace Kendall of Taylor Kendall legal consultancy sent me a link to Adrienne Graham’s aptly titled book No, You Can’t Pick My Brain: It Costs Too Much.
Adrienne herself then joined the conversation to point out – ‘ I give some free help. Lots of people do. I addressed habitual abusers of free. People have to be respectful of your work. It’s up to you to prove the value.’

6. A very useful resource for musicians was sent to me by Adele Bates, home working opera singer. Adele refers to The Musicians’ Union campaign Work Not Play when she’s asked about working for free.
#WorkNotPlayMU supports fair pay for professional musicians and the website showcases musicians’ stories.

7. If you are a writer and missed yesterday’s post, make sure you join ALCS, (The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) who not only collect money due for the copying and scanning of your work, but also lobby on behalf of writers. And PLR (Public Lending Right) pays you for your books being lent by libraries.

Thank you to everyone who has joined in with this debate and please keep sending your stories and resources. It helps to know you are not alone when resisting the pressure of working for free.

Posted in: Making money

4 Comments on "More on working for free"

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  1. Sharon Jackson says:

    Just ordered “No, You Can’t Pick My Brain: It Costs Too Much”. It is a fine line between helping people and being taken advantage off to the detriment of your business & income. Thanks for another great article Judy.

    • As you can see from Candace’s comment below, she found the book to be a revelation – so I hope you get as much out of it. Let us know how you get on applying the advice in real life 🙂

  2. Thanks for raising this debate – I was really chuffed when Adrienne Graham joined the debate as her book was a revelation (second only to your book Judy of course!). She says “You must learn to place a value on yourself or others will do it for you. And you may not like the value they assign!” I remind myself of that before quoting for any job.

    Interested to see that skills swaps were mentioned. I have agreed to these twice in return for “free” advice, only both times for the reciprocal services to disappear once my side of the deal was completed. I think they could work well though, if both parties honour the arrangement.

    • Ha, I don’t expect my book to be a revelation to anyone! I was pleased to hear from Adrienne too, and doubly pleased when Sharon bought a copy of her book – see above. It’s nice to pass on information and oil the wheels a little 🙂
      Good point about skill swaps, and naughty of people to dip out. Although being in possession of that knowledge about them might stop you making the mistake of actiully doing business with them and losing a lot more…

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