Give my services away for Free? Hell NO!
Whether you are new to being a business owner or a seasoned professional, you will undoubtedly bump up against those who need or request your services for Free. We all have our philosophy about how to manage Pro Bono clients but sometimes what we want to do and what we actually do are two different actions. Possibly because we are influenced by what others are doing, saying and judging on.
I’ve known and been very grateful for those who have contributed to me in my life when I couldn’t afford them. One of the main reasons I became a business coach was to help people who love what they do SO MUCH that they give their services away to anyone who needs it. That sounds so honorable and yet, many of them were living in lack because of it. How do you tell someone to stop giving stuff away when they love contributing to others? Better yet, how do you suggest to others that the should give their services away and reap personal and professional rewards?
This is why I am writing Pro Bono doesn’t have to be a NO-NO – 9 Ways to benefit when giving your services away. There seems to be a stigma about giving away services. Coaches will often discourage their clients from doing so, possibly because they were doing incorrectly. Building a Pro Bono program into your business can benefit you in many ways. It could actually BUILD your business! Take a look at some of those ways below and choose what feels right for you; but do choose something to avoid the weight of a Pro Bono so that you can enjoy its benefits instead.
1. Set your limits in advance
Whether you feel as though you can give an hour a week or 10, this is up to you. Know your limits and stick to them. If one more request comes in beyond that, put them on a waiting list. This will save you the feeling of overwhelm. You can’t give away all of your business or you won’t make money. If you choose a certain amount of time per week or month, you will feel good about contributing and you will feel in control.
2. Consider it Volunteering
As a busy professional, some of us can’t give back to the community as much as we’d like to. I myself used to volunteer for a minimum of 4 hours every week for years. I don’t get to do that much anymore. However, I certainly feel as though I am giving back by being there for those in need inside my own trade.
3. Document your Pro Bono time
Depending on your business, this could come in handy at tax time. If you put in 100 hours or a certain about of dollars towards free service, having it in writing will help your tax preparer get all the benefits you qualify for. My software program has an option to check that a session is pro bono, so I can just pull a report at the end of the year. It gives me pleasure to look at the year in review besides being a deduction.
This is certainly not a new concept, but some don’t think to ask for a trade of service. If the person requesting your services for free can help you in some way, then by all means, ask them if they are willing. Bartering can cover a wide variety of areas in which to reciprocate. Where have you been looking for support? Do you need someone to help with your business needs, run errands, babysit, cook a meal, make phone calls, or create marketing material? Maybe this person can write a blog for you or post your social media. Take a look at areas where you can use some help. Make a list and keep it handy for when you speak with someone who you may want to trade with. It’s very important to think ahead on how you will measure this trade. Will it be dollar for dollar of services rendered or hour for hour? For instance, if your hourly rate is $100 and the services you are requesting would cost you $20 hr., then you might agree to their 5 hours to your 1 hour of work. The choice is yours, but you will need to agree on it beforehand.
5. Tweak your terms
The terms you decide on will vary from person to person, also, you will become aware of what works for you and what doesn’t. These are your services you are giving away for FREE, make sure it serves you as well (in your heart or logistically). Review your Pro Bono terms occasionally and tweak them as you go.
6. Create a referral opportunity
If you would like to offer a way for your Pro Bono client to pay you, you can ask them to refer you. This can be a generic request that they refer you as they see fit or you can offer them something more concrete such as one hour of your service for every referral. I, myself had one client who I worked with for years and never paid a dime. I am reaping thousands of dollars per year on her referrals alone.
7. Donate or Pay what you can
If you have a PayPal business account you can create a donate button and place it on your website. Ask your Pro Bono Client to donate money when they have it or ask them to pay what they can when they can. Many people don’t want to ask for free service. They really need or want it but simply can’t afford it. This can help them feel better about the arrangement. I met a chiropractor in Fort Lauderdale who had an open-door policy. No insurance, no appointments. Just come in and get adjusted. There was a black box at the doorway for those who had money to pay what they can. There were many times I had to ignore the black box on my way out because I simply did not have the funds. Later, I would send him a check for a few hundred dollars when I did have it. I was so grateful for his services.
8. Marketing Blast
This is where the gold lies in Pro Bono work. In exchange for your services, request that your client does one or more of the following.
Write a testimonial – There is nothing like a good testimonial from a satisfied client. Post them on your website and use them in marketing material. Make sure they permit you to share it.
Video Testimonial – Extra credit for this one. Have them record themselves giving a testimonial for you. You can then gather your video testimonials and use them to help prospect for other clients.
Social Media Blast – Ask your Pro Bono client to blast about you on social media. Make sure to help them with what to post. You may want to give them material or suggest what you prefer gets posted. If this is an official agreement, determine beforehand how many times and what social media platform they will be sharing on. Most will be happy to oblige.
Become a fan – Ask your client if they could become a fan of your online marketing. What this means is, have them ‘like’ and comment on your posts, ‘like’ your blog, subscribe to your blog, re-blog it and share it. If they are really eager to support you, they can write an article about you and send it to local or online news.
9. Make it official
Lastly, create a written agreement of what terms and conditions this arrangement will have. Outline each item. You will both feel better about the exchange especially when there are no mix-ups during your time together.
Most people are willing to contribute to you if you just ask. It will take something on your part to know when to ‘benefit’ from your Pro Bono work and when not to. Remember this, there will be those situations where just giving and not looking for anything in return is rewarding enough. This list is not for those moments. Use the information above to help create balance when it’s not there. There is nothing wrong with an exchange of energy between two parties. Allow yourself to be contributed to as well.
Conversely, if you are someone looking for services that you simply cannot afford, consider taking the information above and find a way to present a request to your professional. One that creates a win/win situation. Allow them the right to say no for whatever reason and keep looking.
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to know your thoughts. Did it help you? Do you have other ideas that you’d like to share? Please comment below and share this with others. Let’s help one another and still benefit.
Fran Asaro is a Life and Business Coach and founder of Thrive Any Way. Helping people systematize and automate their business and create an online presence. Find out more about how she helps entrepreneurs as a Virtual Partner For questions Contact Fran Asaro or to schedule an appointment