Friday, December 18, 2009

Will Work for Free

Attention small business owners, entrepreneurs, and startup mavens! If you’re looking for someone to work for you for free, I’m going to tell you who will do it.

And by “work” I don’t mean respond to the occasional and casual marketing- or PR-related question. Nor do I mean provide the free resources for small business that are readily available from a marketing professional’s website (such as my marketing plan tool).

I’m talking WORK, as in bringing to bear their experience to help you solve a specific-to-your-business challenge or fulfill a specialized need. Work is the kind of thing professional marketers and public relations people usually get paid to do.

But, there are 3 types of people who will work for you for free, yet with the same commitment to your success as if backed by financial motivation. (Drumroll, please.) They are:

  1. Business partners and co-owners who, like you, believe in the business and will put blood, sweat, savings, and tears into it. They will work the same crazy hours that you do, at the expense of all else, because they are investing in their own success. They can postpone the reaping of any benefits for longer than anyone else you’ll find because they have part ownership (officially, with a contract) in what will be very lucrative in the future. You don’t need to sell them on doing the work for free; they are right by your side. If you don’t have one of these, you are missing out on getting a lot of work done for free and should try to find one, particularly someone with complementary skills to yours. If you work in a larger office environment, perhaps without the authority to bring on a business partner, you’ll want to see #2 and #3 below. (Note: For the right opportunity with the right ownership split, I might leave my cushy, independent professional lifestyle as owner of my own marketing firm to be your business partner.)
  2. Humanitarians and volunteers. When you serve the public and the greater good, you can find volunteers who, like you, believe in the cause and will put blood, sweat, donations, and tears into it. (This next part may sound familiar.) They will work the same crazy hours that you do, at the expense of all else, because they value the organization and believe they can make a difference. They can postpone the reaping of any benefits for longer than anyone else (and sometimes never require anything in return). This is because they have commitment, drive, hearts of gold, and sometimes, other jobs or independent wealth and lots of time. In some cases, when they don’t have other jobs or means of income, the community or family members may take care of them instead (as in on a kibbutz). If you simply change your business model, you will improve your chances of getting work done for free. (Exception: If you are a nonprofit, you can and should find companies like those small businesses being addressed herein to give you stuff and work for you for free instead. Here’s one opportunity to get you started.)
  3. Suckers. There’s one born every minute so you do have a good chance of finding one. The downside is, with the time and energy you might waste trying to find a sucker and convince them to work for you for free, you could have paid for real results. Which might beg the question, Who’s the sucker now?

    I was a sucker before. I worked for free because I genuinely like helping people. Now I know that sometimes potential clients knowingly attempt to maneuver getting work for free and sometimes people do it unawares.

    I understand the need to get things done economically when you’re starting out. When that’s the case, small business owners and entrepreneurs really do need to have a budget that makes sense for the kind of results they expect to achieve. These are tough decisions but in many cases, a business only has one chance to make the first impression that will set the stage for their brand. It seems like an important investment to me.

P.S. This is probably the most irreverent post I’ve ever written, but I’m contemplating a brand shift to “the nicest rebel.” Did that come across? Did I go too far? Other comments and perspectives?


Tracy Diziere said...

To view a spoof on the type of clients who want you to work for free (or a reduced rate with the promise of future benefit), check out this YouTube video on the Vendor-Client Relationship:

dpurdynyc said...

Excellent points ... thanks!