Thursday, July 23, 2009

Would You Work For Free?

I had a conversation with the administrator of a law firm who was interested in my speaking to the associates in her firm about business development, networking, and creating a professional brand.

She started the conversation by saying I was highly recommended by another firm, and was excited to have me speak at their monthly breakfast meeting.

When we got to the part about my fee the conversation took an interesting turn. With the current state of the economy, the managing partner was only interested in my presentation if I would speak for free (or thereabouts).

I declined.

I wonder if this is advice they are giving their clients in regards to working with lawyers??? .... search for free or discounted legal advice until the economy turns around (I do not believe that is a good idea, FYI!). My guess is that in not what they would suggest.

While discussing the value which any vendor provides is a good idea, and negotiation is part of business, I think asking for "free" might be too much. That being said, it never hurts to ask... as the other person can always so "NO".

Had they been a "not-for-profit", I might have been more open to the discussion, but last time I checked, these attorneys were seeking profits for their firm.

I share this more as a rant than a post where I am going to give advice on value, pricing, etc...

Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

Have A Great Day.



myerman said...

Free only works in cases where marginal costs of production are at (or very near) zero, or when the market is full of abundant resources.

Since your particular expertise (and TIME) is scarce, then no, they cannot have you for free. You might make an argument for giving away free e-copies of your book (to spur sales of your printed books), but never for your time.

Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach said...

As someone who speaks on time management for work life balance, I understand your dilemma.

Because work/life brilliance(tm) is a personal and professional ideal, I've said No to speaking engagements that don't pay. This means I have less activity but earn more for the hours I am working.

David Morris said...

You should send a note to the managng partner thanking him/her for thinking of you. I bet that he/she once learning that you needed some compnesation would come through with some. A real business person would not expect anyone to proivde servies for free. Maybe send them an autographed copy of one of your books with the note.

Ari Herzog said...

There are many conference producers who offer complimentary admission but do not pay speakers for their time, travel, or lodging otherwise.

Do you stray away from such producers, regardless of the potential attendees?

Thom Singer said...


Great question.... but I think that it is a different case.

Large groups with a diverse audience is not the same as a small group of 8 attorneys who all work for one firm. The case you describe could, under the correct conditions, be a marketing investment. (although it would depend on who was putting on the event and if I trusted them).

thanks for adding to the discussion.


Jeane Goforth said...

Your headline caught my interest.
My answer, of course, is yes.
I've worked 60 hour weeks for more than 2 years for free.
But that's not what you're talking about.
Our youth orchestra was recently asked to perform at a public library. They asked about our fee. I was going to respond that we'd do it for free, or maybe a donation of $100. The music director responded first and asked for $1000. The library said they had $600 in their budget.
I must learn to place a higher value on what we are doing (and what I am doing), so that others will value it, too. Because it really is priceless.