Should I Work for You for Free?

March 8th, 2012 by Bob Bly

Should I consult or otherwise work for you for free?

RS seems to think so. She writes: “I am asking about the landing page on my web site at URL. I have had very low response and have sold very little product.”

Of course, I cannot answer unless I click on the link, go to RS’s web site, and analyze it.

RS expects me to do this for free. Should I be flattered or annoyed? Mostly, I am the latter.

She is asking me to do for her, for free, work that my clients pay for.

Why should I?

This happens all the time, by the way. People ask me almost every day, “Can you take a quick look at my web site?” When I tell them “No, I can’t,” they are offended. 

Never mind that their auto mechanic charges to give their car an inspection. They automatically assume I should work for them for free.

If I looked at and commented on all the web sites people want me to review without compensation, I would have no time to serve my clients, who are the ones that pay my bills.

How is that fair?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2012 at 4:36 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

52 responses about “Should I Work for You for Free?”

  1. Joseph Ratliff said:

    …and doctors charge for office visits, lawyers (for the most part) charge for the first consult etc… etc…

    Why should our profession be any different?

  2. Aaron Poehler said:

    Wasting time responding to these queries just legitimizes them.

    Have a basic form letter on hand to copy-paste into replies which explains the cost for your services (the same as one would use for typical inquiries): those who respond with a proper business inquiry earn the privilege of continued communication, and those who respond that they expected something for free can be freely ignored without a second thought.

  3. Ryan O'Meara said:

    As a former professional dog trainer I was flooded with never ending requests from people who wondered if I could take a look at their misbehaving pets, no mention of a payment. I am by nature relatively polite so would always try and find out what their profession was and ask whether I could (get free legal advice, get my auto parts for nothing etc) if I gave up my time. Surprising how many people didn’t have the same interest at that point.

  4. Scott said:

    A Paypal link for a $79 consultation is right handy; include it in the reply email. Complaining about the requests seems unproductive; Will Work For Money is a pretty defensible position; Don’t Ever Ask Me A Favor seems, in comparison, mean-spirited.

  5. Bob Bly said:

    Scott: Good idea in theory. In reality, it is not worth my time to interrupt my schedule for a paltry $79; I already have more work than I can handle.

  6. William Reynolds said:

    Anybody can ask for anything. We aren’t obliged to answer one way or the other. I get unreasonable requests all the time from people who simply don’t understand (or don’t care) how the game is played. One click and they go to my spam folder. No harm done.

  7. Jim Logan said:

    I think you’re overlooking the opportunity — I win a lot of new clients and repeat business from the same inquiries.

    These are people coming to you who are expressing a problem they believe you can solve — self identified leads. You don’t have to fix their problem when you click to their site, but instead use it as an opportunity to identify how you can help them for a fee. Quickly analyze the problem, describe the work you can do to fix it, and quote a fee. Again, I win new business this way all the time.

    The analogies of the mechanic, lawyer, etc. are flawed. If a mechanic fixes your car for free he’s foolish, but if he pauses a moment to listen and talk to someone who brought their car in with a question of whether or not it needs to be serviced, he probably just won a client.

    We don’t have to stop everything in our day to look at a landing page — we can do it when it’s convenient.

    For those of you who don’t like these requests…feel free to forward them my way :)

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  9. SK said:

    Bob, send over the queries to me! I will charge them the paltry $79 for my time! Am currently doing my research on breaking into the commercial writing field and a friend mentioned you!

  10. Bob Bly said:

    Jim: I don’t want to convert freeloaders into paying customers. I want to work with people who already understand the value of what I do and come to me with an open checkbook ready to pay for it. That’s my preference.

  11. daine said:

    Bob, flattered. But, I would not offer any advice, nor click thru to their site. You offer lots of free wisdom for the do-it-yourselfer. I agree with Aaron .. send along the quote page via email with a nice thank you.

  12. arumdev said:

    I agree with Jim more or less, but it really depends on the nature of the enquiry. If it’s explicitly “will you look at my landing page and/or sort out my website for free”, then a simple no, or delete is fine.

    But if the same question is absent the ‘free’ clause, how do you know that they’re not willing to pay? maybe they’re trying to get an idea of what it’s like to work with you etc, in which case a blunt “now way jose” is going to put them off, and potentially may other clients as a result of word-of-mouth.

    Ok so you may have too much work on your hands at the moment, but that might not always be the case?

    I’m not saying you have to actually do anything without pay – just that it might be wiser to respond with a quick, polite, here’s my price list or something (even if it’s a copy/paste job or a link to a web page) rather than effectively saying “I’m far too busy to entertain silly questions from the likes of you”, which in the long run might do more harm than good.

    Finally, if you’re really so inundated with work (and I’m not suggesting you’re not) that taking 5 mins to reply as above is not worth $79, hire a secretary to do all that and more for you ;).

    As you were! :)

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