Impact Pricing Blog

Should Freelancers Do Work for Free?

You may have missed this LinkedIn exchange with David Richards, you may find it insightful.

My original LinkedIn post:

A friend just shared this BBC article with me:


Being a freelancer

If you are a freelancer, you may be asked to do things for free. I have many thoughts about this.

  1. If you are a freelancer and you’re asked to do something for free, your first reaction must be to say “no”. Then, if you can truly justify the value you would get from the exposure or the cache, then consider saying yes. But not to a 2-week job. Very rarely does free work result in more jobs. Just say no.
  2. Companies who ask for free must know what they are getting. If you are good and you are busy, you would never work for free (OK there are exceptions). If you work for free it’s like admitting you are not good. Just say no.
  3. I rarely get asked to work for free. Maybe because I’m in pricing? I’m often asked about my time for advice. I consider these consultations. When I do them I treat them like a sales call. I give huge value for an hour then ask for an order if they want more. This works 20% of the time. It’s worth my time.

Summary: Just say no unless you’re pretty sure it’s worth it.


David’s response:

Mark, certainly in the UK, the concept of a free ‘road test’ is gaining popularity. I guess the issue is what value you give for free and for how long. Sometimes the value is a book, sometimes it’s a one-pager or free 30min zoom call. I also think it depends on your business life cycle. Early days, when you are building a reputation, you might need to demonstrate your value… Later, you may have testimonials that prove you have delivered. It’s a question that I know many freelancers struggle with… Including myself!

My response:

David, I empathize a lot. I love to speak to groups, but when asked to speak for free I have this desire to do it… but I rarely say yes.  Instead, I remember all of the valuable work I could be doing.  The marketing, the sales calls, new content.  I will generate way more business working my business than speaking for free, at least most of the time.  However, if I was asked to speak for free in a room full of fortune 500 CEOs, you betcha I’d say yes.  We always have to trade off giving something for free with what we expect to get and what we have to give up.  I would guess the reason many freelancers work for free is they would rather do “work” than marketing or sales. After all, I’d rather be speaking than cold calling.  But even more, I’d rather be growing my business.  When my business is bigger, I help more people and make more money.

David’s final words:
Great insights, well made. Food for thought.

(OK, putting in that last part was a little self-serving.  Sorry.)

I’m very active on LinkedIn.  If you want to be involved in conversations like these, follow me or Link In with me.


Tags: discounts

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