Doing things for free


If you ask me to do something for free, don’t be offended when I tell you to take a hike!

I’ve been around in this self-employed world for about 19 years now. I’ve published books, had several TV shows, spoke at all sort of prestigious occasions and yet occasionally I still get asked to do things for free, not as much as I use too but on the odd occasion. I mostly ignore these requests, politely decline or not even give them the time of day. On the rare occasion I do say yes it is because I really want to do it for me, not because one of the umpteen reasons people give me for giving my precious time to them.

Those reasons mostly include:

  • It will be good exposure

  • It will be a good marketing opportunity

  • It’s for a good cause

  • We don’t have the money

The irony kills me

I wouldn’t mind so much but most of these requests come from people who are getting paid to work. The irony kills me. And I know that most people aren’t as clear as me about unpaid work. I was talking to a friend last week who had been offered an item of clothing to try out for a week and do several Instagram posts about, when she asked for payment they were nice but a little taken back and of course she felt bad. But really why should we? Would they do a couple of days work in the office for an item of clothing and no payment? Probably not.

Taking advantage of the young

My daughter Bronte gets asked to do a lot of free stuff; perhaps they think that her young age means that she will say yes to everything. Little do they know that she has me behind her! Recently a company offered her a price for a post then sent an email saying that the client now wanted two more posts, however there was no more money - would she do it? They seem surprised when she said no. This salaried person would not work the whole day if they were only get paid every other hour, would they?

It's all about boundaries

It does infuriate me but I also think that to a certain extent we only have ourselves to blame. Most of us don’t have clear boundaries, we don’t value the work we do enough to demand payment and as women we are conditioned to feel bad for sticking up for ourselves. And there are lots of people who will do things for free; maybe those that do it on the side and have a salaried job - where is the solidarity here?

Why do we feat saying No

I know it’s each to their own and I won’t judge anyone for doing something for free, ever. But we have to be clear why we are doing it. Most I fear are doing it because they fear saying no. But think about it; if that salaried person wouldn’t come to work for free then why you should?

I suggest that we all know our limits are on doing free work and stick to them. For me, it’s pretty much nothing unless the thing excites me so much that I really want to do it.

For Bronte it is generally only if she wants it and we would buy it anyway, as was the case with Jord watches, if she really loves the cause, as was the case with the post about 100 Women I Know  or she feels a real connection with the item or person. But we probably say yes to 1 in 20 requests and often they are driven by the fact we find the item a photographic challenge, which we always love.

Get Clear

Get really clear where your yes and no is. And salaried people asking us to do things for free, maybe get clear why you are and how that might make other people feel.