give free work the finger
Working for free… sounds pretty crappy if you ask me!
Free work is necessary sometimes, but other times it’s just plain silly and completely avoidable. Plus, I used to do a lot of free work without even knowing it! So let’s break down what free work is, why we do it, when we need to do it, and when and why we should NEVER do it.
I define free work as:
Giving away your time
Giving someone the value you normally get paid to deliver
Having to chase payments
Going out of scope in a project
Doing things that will NOT provide exponential value for you in the future.
That last point is a crucial one that most people overlook completely!
Free work examples of the above points include:
Writing custom proposals for prospects to try to win their business
Free consultations or strategy sessions to try to prove your value before they buy
Networking lunches with one other person to hopefully trade business in the future
“Pick your brain” coffee dates or meetups with prospects and connections
Answering requests and making changes after the project has ended
Spec work (doing some work before they’ve hired you to show what you can do so they hopefully hire you) such as RFP’s.
The reason I’m so against free work, and have built a framework for freelance businesses that eliminates free work forever, is because once the proposal is done, the strategy session is over, or the lunch is eaten… if they didn’t buy, that time is basically lost.
And you can’t ever get that time back!
Now I know, I know, if you do some or all of the above you probably think that’s just how it works, that whatever you’re doing is the only way to get clients. How else are they supposed to decide whether or not to hire you?
Well I have some strategies that completely turn this thinking on its head (and includes getting paid for anything more than 15 minutes of your time) that I’ll tell you about in a minute.
But right now I just want to get you to realize how wasteful these activities are.
Free work with benefits.
When you are doing free work for prospects and clients, you are necessarily NOT doing other activities, specifically the kind of activities that could snowball the value of your business. Activities that can make you more and more profitable over time. What are these magical things?
These things are also unpaid work, but they provide exponential value for you in the future :
Connecting with people and giving value on social media
Hosting a free facebook group to grow your community
In other words: marketing.
Marketing is unpaid work in the sense that nobody is paying you to create the content.
However, the upside of creating content online is that it lives forever. It will exist and continue to provide value to an unlimited audience from the day you publish it on, for weeks, months, and years to come. Each new person that interacts with it will experience it for the first time, but you only have to make it once.
This is not “free work” in the classic sense, this is a necessary part of growing an ever-increasing profitable brand. And what’s fun about marketing is the more work you put into it NOW, the bigger the payoff LATER.
Sounds pretty magical, huh?
See why the second kind of “free work” is a great way to leverage your time and the first isn't?
The choice is yours.
In the very first weeks and months of your business I absolutely get why you'd need, and want, to give away some time as you try to gain experience and information to build your business and expertise. And as long as there is a clear, strategic reason to give that time away for free and a limit on how long you will do free work in order to not give it away in the future, then I support it 100%.
The goal is to avoid building a business where you have to educate every new person with lots of free work (time) and value before they hire you.
The problem is when you are doing free work in the classic sense, the wasteful kind, you don’t have TIME to do the marketing work that will build more and more value in your service and business. And so, you’ll always be stuck doing free work.
So what are you supposed to do?
You have 3 options:
Go into debt marketing for an eventual payoff later?
Keep doing free work to land some clients, while trying to learn how to and then actually market your business in your “free” time at night and on weekends (if you even have those available).
Or get your head on straight and implement a strategy that cuts through the BS of trying to woo and charm prospects into hiring you while wasting all your time.
My strategy is a Lead Product.
A lead product is a paid service product that replaces free work with something valuable that you get paid for. It’s 1 part in the 4 part formula of Badassery, and I explain in all in chapter 4 from my book which you can download below!
I share more information on what a lead product is, why you should create one, and how it eliminates free work FOREVER! Click the button below to download chapter 4
If you’re brand-spanking new to your business you might not be able to come out guns blazing with a lead product (maybe you can!), but either way it’s great to know what it is and have it in mind as you are starting to work with people so you can craft one that is authentic to you, actually provides value (and isn't just a proposal masquerading as value) and that you are excited about because you know how valuable it is.
This strategy eliminates free work from your business & life completely!