It happens all the time. When you become an entrepreneur, people (friends, family, associates, etc.) expect you to work for free. It doesn’t matter the industry you are in, whether it’s a side hustle, or you operate and own a major business in your city’s downtown area, someone will want free work. It’s actually insulting when you are asked to work for free. Why is it that when someone knows you, they feel that they shouldn’t have to pay for your expertise? It suddenly becomes different than if someone else (a stranger) was doing the service or selling the product—a scenario where they would normally pay full price.
Maybe this post is a tad bit of a rant, but more than anything else, I hope that people think twice before asking another entrepreneur to work for free.
Asking someone to work for free may present itself in different forms. Below are just a few examples:
“I know you specialize in __________________, can I pick your brain about _______________?”
But you have no intention on hiring them for the professional advice you are seeking.
“Can I send you my business plan for you to review?”
Just because someone is a business owner, it doesn’t mean that they have the time or desire to entertain everyone who approaches them about their new business idea.
Additionally, you would be surprised at how many times people contact me for information that they could simply Google or research for themselves?
“I really want to work with you but I want to test it out first. Can you provide a sample of your work or product for me to experience before I buy?”
Sometimes this may make sense for a business, if they can provide their product or service on a very small scale. However, if that’s impossible, just buy the product or service and test after you purchase it.
“I can’t afford you (translation – I don’t want to pay you) but working with me would give you amazing exposure for your brand.”
While some situations are true and legit portfolio builders for someone seeking experience or trying to grow their audience, oftentimes the people who propose this just want free work. For a proposal like this to even begin to work, true value has to be given to the person giving their time and service. Furthermore, don’t ask a seasoned professional to work for free; they probably don’t need help building their resume.
Now that you know some of the ways that free work requests can present themselves, let’s discuss why you shouldn’t ask an entrepreneur to work for free. There are numerous reasons; but I will just share 3 in this post:
Entrepreneurs have to pay their bills, just like you.
They have debt, vacation & retirement plans, and daily living expenses just like you… But unlike you, they are paying expenses that probably aren’t even crossing your mind (their own health insurance out of pocket, legal fees, business licenses, materials for products, basically a ton of costs that are related to managing their business). I know that’s not your problem, but when you ask them to work for free, you are being inconsiderate.
Entrepreneurs must spend their time and resources to complete a service or provide a product.
Unless it’s my birthday or I saved up coupons, I receive nothing for free at my favorite stores and restaurants. I’m sure it’s the same for you. The reason is because unless it is a special promotion, it’s just not smart business to provide free products and services for free. Every time you expect someone to work for free, you are declaring that you don’t value their time and you don’t think they are worth a dime. Period. When an entrepreneur says no to free work, it’s not being mean, it’s simply that they VALUE their own time and expertise. And the only way that they can stay in business is if they make smart business decisions that will generate revenue for their business. Working for free for you won’t.
9 times out of ten (based on my own experience), you have probably never even supported them.
Unfortunately, people hate their 9-5 jobs. Just look at social media, Mondays people are stressed out and Fridays people are excited. So when they see your post or email promoting your business or side hustle, they never like it; they never share your business with others; they never forward your newsletter or flyer; if you have a brick and mortar, they don’t stop by and buy a product; they never provide any type of support (virtual or physical)—but those are often the ones who want the hook-up. Hmmmm…
The point is that it’s important that we uplift entrepreneurs and support them so that we can create jobs and build up our communities through small businesses. We often want people to support our dreams but wait until our friends and family are famous before we publicly celebrate them or acknowledge their business.
Note that I love helping people but the constant requests for free free free is overwhelming. If I don’t show up to your 9-5 and ask you to give me free work, don’t do it to me.
Wishing you all the best, Business Rock Stars!
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