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Ok, so I’ll admit it . . . I wrote this post a while back called “Give it Away . . . For Free!” sharing how free advice will ultimately pay off and bring good karma. And yes, I still stand by everything I wrote. But perhaps I’m seeing business bottom line with more of an ice cold eye than I once did.
On an episode of Kell on Earth, Kelly Cutrone struggles with people constantly asking for free advice, actually taking a cell phone call from the uncle of her daughter’s school friend. He inquired about his own business (whatever it was) and asked what he should be doing. But, Cutrone owns her own business (People’s Revolution) and she has to worry about paying her employees and getting food on the table for her seven year old daughter (oh, and paying for her country house in France…technicality). Constantly dolling out free advice sets her back in her day taking away valuable time from her paying clients.
With the economy being as bad as it is, I say it’s perfectly OK to be selfish focused and concentrate on the paid jobs first and foremost (really, regardless of the economy, this is how it should always be). I receive calls and questions all the time about offering my firm’s PR services for free for nonprofit events. That’s not even my decision to make as an AC, but I’ve started to just say “no.” I mean no harm and usually give 10 or so minutes of free advice telling the person where to send a release to and the best way to approach pitching the media about the nonprofit event. Nine times out of ten I even go to the event. My firm also does work on barter or pro bono with a few organizations which I have found somewhat of an industry standard. I myself am heavily involved in helping two nonprofit organizations with pro bono PR work. It’s important! But if we say “yes” to everyone who asks for help, there’s no time left to earn the money. Then where does that leave us? Yeah – no one will be asking us for our advice when we‘re out of a job or have closed shop, will they? Man, I can’t imagine how lawyers feel.
Have you ever been approached for free work and free advice? What’s your outlook on it and how do you approach saying “no.” If you say “yes,” where do you lay the boundaries? Has it worked? I think this is a fair discussion especially for firm professionals and solo practitioners.
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