“Support your friends. Don’t ask for free stuff. Pay for it. Attend their shows. Be the first to buy their products and promote their ideas.”
A friend posted that message on Facebook. In minutes, her post had 50 likes and counting. The topic I’m about to broach is an uncomfortable one. But it struck a nerve, so here goes.
I’m asked to provide free marketing and writing services several times a week. Most requests are deemed “fast and easy” by the requester. In actuality, most requests require hours of my time. I try to be a good sport, so I take on 1-2 unpaid jobs a week. As someone who works from 10-14 hours a day on average, not including volunteer time for nonprofit organizations, I simply can’t take on more.
Now, many of the requests come from people who can afford to pay me. Half come from people who are clearly better off than I am. Some requests are the friend of a friend kind–“I told my roommate, neighbor, uncle, best friend, coworker you might be able to do this one favor …”
Almost all requests have imminent deadlines. (“I need it by tomorrow at 3!”) A shocking number of people forget to thank me afterward. Some don’t actually need the work they asked for (“I decided to stay at my job, but thanks so much for the resume!”). Some don’t truly value the free work I do because have no idea that they’ve requested and received hundreds of dollars worth of free work. (That resume? I usually charge $400-$600. In your mind, that resume may be worth only, say, $50, but in reality you just got a kickass self-promotional piece that’ll go a long way toward getting your foot in the door. Though you may not recognize it, you got a sweet deal.)
Does that mean I can’t answer a friend’s questions about grammar or punctuation? Or that I can’t edit a short piece for a family member in need? Or provide job hunting support to someone starting out in the field or marketing tips for a friend in the startup phase? Or help someone out who’s always there for me?
Of course not.
With these exceptions in mind, here are some rules of thumb: If you have a deadline you need to hit, you’re probably in the market for paid work. If you can afford a home or a car or a vacation or splurges like a fantastic new pair of skis or posh, strappy sandals, you’re probably in the market for paid work. If you’re not willing to put in extra hours to earn money to pay for services but are willing to let someone else put in extra hours to give you those services for free, you probably need a reality check — and you’re definitely in the market for paid work.
And though I’m sure I sound like your mom, I’d like to reiterate that a thank you for free work is always in order.
Okay. That was exactly as uncomfortable as I expected it would be. All the more so since the Facebook message actually read as follows:
“Support your friends. Dont ask for free stuff, pay for it. Attend their shows, be the first to buy their products and promote their ideas.”
the message in the graphic above has two run-ons and a word that’s missing an apostrophe. The author probably should have asked me for free editing help.