I’ve just had a situation where I’ve had to say “No” to a free speaking gig! And somehow it’s not been an easy one. Yes, you read that right, I said a FREE Speaking gig, where I would attend to speak at an industry event, but not get paid! To some it might sound like a great opportunity, but many of you will probably be shouting at your screen “Don’t be ridiculous – you’re self employed, of course you should be paid”.
There’s this suggestion that “You’ll get exposure”. Really? I don’t need exposure to people who don’t value my expertise enough to pay for it! And by the way, I have plenty of really amazing clients, who do pay for my services – and to be honest, I feel like it’s a disservice to them. Why would I do unpaid work for one organization, while I charge my regular, loyal, fabulous clients – it simply does not make sense.
But everyone else is doing it!
There was another point made, that all the other panelists are speaking for free. So I had a look at the panelists – firstly the vast majority are attending the event anyway, as they’re in the industry and members of the industry organisation. Secondly, the vast majority are paid employees, so frankly, they’ll get paid at the end of the week/month either way – I, on the other hand, don’t.
(Separately as a mum of two, this line of argument is a especially weak one with me!)
Value what you do
It is a very real dilemma for self-employed consultant/freelance folks. But here’s the thing – if I don’t put value on my time, who is going to? It’s up to me to say no, to push back, to maintain my own standard. It’s important for me to feel good about the work that I do, and to deliver the best work for my clients, so that they value it too.
I am delighted to share that knowledge with others - it's what I love to do. It's the whole reason I started up my business, to share this knowledge. Whether in the training room in an international corporation or in a college or at a local enterprise office. Whether it's in the boardroom, or mentoring someone through their thesis. My business is to share that experience with my clients, whatever the context. I love doing that - I love the variety. But I do need to feel that it's valued.
I don’t normally have a rant, but I’m mad. I’m actually most mad at myself that it still took me almost 24 hours to deliberate about it, and eventually write a long explanatory response about why it wouldn’t work. In hindsight it feels like waste of energy and headspace!! But then again, better that than another day or more wasted, to prepare for the event and attending it, and then also kicking myself more for being a sucker!!!
When I started my business a few years ago, I was in a meeting with a wonderful lady regarding another 'free opportunity' – meaning, opportunity for both of us to work for free, with a long term risky benefit. She did not entertain it for a second, but stayed long enough to impart some really great advice to me. “You will find yourself very busy if you're planning to work for free. Not sure how viable the business will be, if that’s your model. “ Her rule of thumb, which I’ve adopted, is that I will do unpaid work only for charitable organisations (and honestly, I can’t work for all, but do my best), and very very occasionally for organisations with which I have an affiliation or membership. Outside of that, my time is valuable and needs to be charged as such. This rule of thumb has really stood me in good stead - so I am regularly extremely grateful for that lady's early advice!!!
Anyhoo, you know what, I am sure this organisation will find some other sucker to go along, and not be paid. But I'm happy to say, that sucker is not me!