Sounds ridiculous, right? But the biggest mistake businesses and business owners are making right now is dismissing the idea of doing something for nothing. I get that we all have bills to pay and payroll to make and, I'm not saying build the foundations of your business on working for free.
There are many ways you can work for free without affecting the viability of your business, and even strengthen your infrastructure by doing so.
1. Admiration Trumps Financial Gain
If you've never done anything for free, you'll be surprised at how good it makes you feel. There's a lot of happiness to be gained here by working for free, and you'll feel less pressured into working to deadlines, and nine times out of ten the person/business you are working for will appreciate you and your work far more than if they were paying for it.
Don't get me wrong; there are plenty of pricks out there just itching to criticise someone, anyone and anything because no work could ever match up to their superior talents. Give these guys a wide berth! If you ever were to strike up a paid relationship with them; imagine their expectations having parted with the all-emotive cash that brings so much meaning to their lives.
2. Suck It and See
My company offers guaranteed long-term growth, which means our clients are in Contracts of 12 and 24 months. Every business has a personality (or at least it should), this personality is a result of the leaders and workers. The fact is, we don't all get along; people don't get along with people, and by working for free for a person or business, you get to experience their personality. Go on a few dates, sleep together, see how it feels (metaphorically)...
The worst thing a business can do is tie a client into a Contract that isn't working for them, but at the same time, you don't want to be putting in all the front-end effort in just to see them walk out the door with the keys to the car you have effectively bought them. So test the water, have a few conversations with them, talk about love and life because you're not on the clock.
If you were to go down the paid work route at a later date, you'll have a much better understanding and relationship so any niggles can be worked on, and not thrown at you like a custard pie.
On a side note though, don't expect every freebie to generate you cash. If you're working under the pretence that after this free work they will then begin to pay you, well firstly, it's no longer free work and secondly, no one likes to be held ransom. If you're pressuring them or making them feel obligated in any way, this will not make you or the client feel good, and in two years time when they are considering paid work - you'll be at the bottom of the list. Remember, the main reason you're doing this is for the admiration...not currency!
3. Skills, Processes and Procedures
My company employs a rather complex workflow between different people and software. I knew that when getting to page 109 of my Business Plan, I had to begin putting it into action, and I knew that such a complex workflow would not go without a glitch; and so over time we have streamlined, simplified and honed our workflows.
The same goes for skills, as we are effectively a marketing agency, we are required to have a range of skills and abilities to service the broadest range of requirements: video, graphics, animation, copywriting, social media, design...the list goes on.
So, the free work will allow you to explore new skill sets; maybe you'd like to get involved in Photoshop, bid-writing, Autodesk, or something you've never done before. The free work will give you a purpose to do this, and it will be commended with gallons of admiration that you will find far more valuable than money.
Use the free work to better your company and skills!
4. Extended Value
As a business owner, I am always looking to add extended value to our clients in any way I can - offering them something they for which they might otherwise pay. How can I add extended value to my client's Contract, how can we give a little extra?
Not all free work is entirely unpaid, but if you can find ways to give your client something over and above their expectations, this will add massive value to your reputation and the quality of your relationship.
To add extended value though you must be absolutely clear what the intended value is. Make it clear on day one what you will do for your client and how much that will cost; if you work on a retainer basis, this can be difficult and calling up your client to explain what added value you are offering is not the right way to go about it. Doing so can lead to your client feeling obligated and pressured into compensating you for this (which is not what extended value is about). We use a beautifully designed Presentation Report which we send over at the end of each month. If you would like a copy, drop me an email Daniel@LIMIVEX.com.
5. Don't Be Taken Advantage Of
Again, the world is filled with plenty of pricks and tossers, and they do well to disguise this. If you find your free work being unreasonably criticised, or you get even the slightest feeling they are now driving your workload, avoid them; they are not worth your time or kindness.
Work for free for those that will appreciate you for it, and even those that need it the most (new businesses or entrepreneurs). again - remember your driving force is admiration.
And if you see this dog in the park; steer clear, he's a cheeky bastard!
If you liked this article, you'll love my other blog: Pursue Happiness, Not Money