Do "free" for fun. Not for business.
In April of last year is when I introduced professional photography into my business. Using the same approach to building a successful copywriting career over the last 10 years, I initially started to take pictures, post them online, and see what the reaction was. A few weeks later I got such a positive response that a few people had reached out to me to want to work together.
Now, a year later, and in between listening to a lot of different people as to “how to build a successful photography career” I realized how not only working for “free” isn’t the way to go. I soon realized it was hurting, rather than helping me.
Personally speaking, here’s why I found it’s better to make “free” fun. NOT for building a business.
Free, doesn’t help you close future sales. It actually prevents them.
Let’s face it. Everything is sales. And if you don’t know how to overcome objections and close sales, you probably won’t be in business for too long. Unless, of course you find someone else who can take that role on. Even so, you still have to sell them on the idea that it’s good to work for you.
That means, working for “free” doesn’t allow you the kind of practice you need to overcome any objections and/or actually sell your service.
Free, forces you to do more work you don’t like. Including, less work you do like.
Let’s be honest, you can’t pay rent, your expenses, or even pay off any debt you may incurred over the years without being able to make money. I should know. I worked my share of jobs to “pursue my passion.” From delivering pizzas, to being an overnight bellman at the Ritz Carlton… many of those jobs drained me. And as I look back over the years, it really didn’t do anything for my career, other than barely pay my rent and pay off any credit card debt I was in.
Finding new, profitable ways to get paid to do what I love.
Free, isn’t valued by others. It’s something many will take advantage of.
A number of months ago I wanted to see what it would be like to do a “headshot event.” So a big-name co-working space was on board, and wound up shooting about 20 professional looking headshots.
During the event, I had created a coupon for $100 off their first shoot. And mentioned that after I send them a link to view their photos, they get to pick one for free… and any other photos would be a $50 additional cost (mind you, I talked to the coordinator there and everyone seemed to love them she had said).
However, when I sent out the email for people to choose their favorite photo, virtually 1/2 of them didn’t respond. And the other 1/2 just wanted their free photo. And now, a month later, not one person contacted me for work.
Happy that I got some great shots for my portfolio, I was a bit disappointed at the outcome — even though I didn’t really expect much.
Free, builds resentment, not confidence, in what you do.
Taking the scenario above into account, it bothered me a bit of that lack of appreciation that I had gotten from some people. Especially how much time and energy I put into taking their pictures, for no cost to them. And considering that I myself spent $1,300 in shitty photos last year that I couldn’t use… I began to realize just how much money I saved them from going out and hiring someone like me to take their picture to help them promote their business.
To say that I became pretty resentful towards these people was an understatement. Not so much at the money it didn’t bring in, but with the kind of quality I delivered and how unappreciative some people were of the work that I did, and they seemed to like.
Be really careful as to why you’re doing work for free and if you decide to offer complimentary services and/or donate your services to a good cause without expecting anything in return of it, after you’re done, send them an invoice with your typical fee, but with a zero balance. This way, they know just how much money they’re saving from actually hiring you.
Anything more than that, and you run the risk of feeling everything I had just mentioned.
The better alternative?
Like I did to build my copywriting career, start out charging a really low hourly rate, then gradually increase it over time. This way, you get to build your experience AND your income, both, at the same time. Or, in exchange for any free services you provide, tell them that if they’re happy with the work that you do, that they refer you to 5-10 of their business friends or colleagues that you think could use your service.
Any free service you provide could be both fun AND profitable… to the point where you can actually earn a living from doing the things you love, not starve for one.
About the author.
Since 2008, Jared Kessler has worked with some of the most highly-recognized ad firms and brands, to grow their sales with words and copy. Including Hewlett Packard, Hyatt, T-Mobile, Ben Bridge, Microsoft and more than a dozen others.
He started Jared Kessler Creative to provide a better, more strategic approach for growing these same kinds of businesses and brands. But in a different, more personalized way.