Where Will Offering Free Services Get You?
Every so often, I see a freelancer offer up her services free as part of a giveaway. Maybe it’s as part of a sale to drum up business, maybe it’s part of a contest to benefit a non-profit — no matter what, though, I always take a closer look. More often than not, I find that I don’t see a clear benefit to the freelancer making the offer.
There are times when offering free services makes sense. But it’s a question to consider very carefully: time that you spend working for free for a client is time that you could spend on a paying project or marketing yourself so that you can land your next big project. Free services also put you in danger of training a potential client that your time isn’t worth your going rate. There’s a fine line between a giveaway that help you and one that can set you back.
When is Giving Your Time Away Worth Your While?
Time is money. If you’re giving away your time, it had better mean that doing so will bring in some money in other ways. It’s not impossible to set up:
- Your giveaway will lead directly to paid work. If, for instance, you’re willing to give away an hour of free work to land an additional ten hours of work, the math can work out (especially if you raise your rates to cover that extra hour).
- Get big attention from your ideal client. Putting a gift certificate for a couple hours of your time into a silent auction for charity can help you build at least a little awareness among people who hadn’t heard of you before, although it’s crucial that you make sure that at least part of the audience would be interested in paying you for your work.
- Pair your giveaway with a paid purchase. If you have a product to sell — even if you’re an affiliate for a product and didn’t create it yourself — you can offer up some of your time for free to help buyers make up their minds. A web developer might sell a website template and offer up an hour of customization for free, as an example.
Limiting Requests for Unpaid Work
If you don’t see the benefit of donating some time, it’s likely to be something you don’t want to do. I belong to an organization that hits me up for a couple of hours of work every year to go into a silent auction to benefit the organization. The problem is that every other member of that organization already knows me and knows exactly what I have to offer. I’m not going to get any extra work through putting up my services for free.
There are times that, even without a clear financial benefit, you can choose to give away your services just the same. With that organization, for instance, I am willing to help out because it’s a way that I can support the organization, which is important to me. The important thing is being able to recognize where the benefit is and make the decision with your eyes wide open.
Photo credit: Jesslee Cuizon on Flickr