It’s very important for independent entrepreneurs to value your own time and not be afraid to charge what you are worth. However, there are times when it makes sense to ‘work for free.’ This post discusses the when & the how.
Work for free when you are speaking to your target audience
Have an opportunity to speak in front of your target audience? Take it. The caveat: give them enough to taste your full experience. Since you may have 30 to 60 minutes, it’s unlikely you’ll have enough time to demonstrate what a complete experience looks like. Also, before your presentation, be clear about how you want this investment of your time to translate to more business opportunities. If you’re clear beforehand, you can be mindful during your presentation.
How does this actually work?
Well, one of the main offerings of my image consulting company, ImageCube, is a three-part workshop on executive presence, designed for professionals.
The entire workshop is 8 hours in duration where my book and 40-page workbooks are included in the complete program experience. Since opportunities to present and speak to my target audience are quite common, I created a fast track version of my program, which is 45 minutes in duration. I take a few learning objectives from each of the three parts and offer a two-sided handout. The attendees get an overview of the entire program. However, the 8 hour program time is necessary for the in-depth version with its data, charts, graphs and case studies.
With the fast-track version, I share enough knowledge to be useful to people and convey that I am an expert. It’s something that I do for a marketing event where I can reach my target audience – human resources, talent, sales and marketing managers.
Work for free when it aligns with your values
A couple of weekends ago, I did a free event for high school kids. One of the foundations in town offers a job readiness program for high school students. The President of the foundation asked me to give a talk about professional presence and follow-up. I presented, starting with painting the following picture:
Imagine that you are interviewing for a job. You walk into the building of the company. Every candidate starts on the ground floor. From the moment you walk in, in the first 5 minutes, the interviewer is trying to see if you are a good fit for the company. He is assessing this fit based on your appearance and body language.
In a one-hour interview, you’re going to make a positive or negative impression in the first five minutes. If you interview well and meet their requirements, the rest of your interview will be spent affirming your initial positive impressions. If you made a bad impression initially, you probably went below ground and didn’t even know how far below ground you’d gone – all because of poor impressions in the first 5 minutes! Although you’ll have to work your way back up to ground level, you’re likely to run out of time.
The way I drew this picture conveys expertise. They are not going to read this in a magazine! The picture was visually engaging for them to understand the power of a first impression.
Now, high school students are not my target audience. However, in giving back to the community and being charitable, I am able to uphold my own values. Further, I see events like this as a means to network with other business owners and influencers in the community. Besides, students have parents that could be my target audience, or the gentleman who runs the foundation could have contacts that could be in my target audience.
Don’t take too much time to create a free program.
It took me years of investment and the involvement of multiple other consultants to create my full signature program. I know that a taste of offerings from the program will be quality. Telling people what they can read in a magazine is not valuable – that doesn’t convey expertise! The free program to be quality enough to give your audience enough of a taste of your expertise. That’s it. Don’t get too bogged down. In summary, work for free when: 1) It is in line with your values (i.e. giving back), and/or; 2) You are in front of your people and have content or a perspective that is not readily accessible; and/or 3) If that audience is connected to other people that could be your target audience.
In summary, work for free when:
- It is in line with your values (i.e. giving back), and/or;
- You are in front of your people and have content or a perspective that is not readily accessible; and/or
- If that audience is connected to other people that could be your target audience.