My oldest stepson came in after work and asked me to take a look at his resume. Working in Human Resources I review resumes daily. I immediately quoted him my fee. He couldn’t believe I would charge him. I was joking, of course. He has the benefit of having me at his disposal, and I am happy to help him. Of course, I know as a good stepmother I will be rewarded in the long run. A little while after, my husband and I got into a discussion about our publishing company and I started thinking about different instances over the years where people have been intrusive and attempted to take for granted that we are professionals.
Whether it has been through modeling, pageantry, working in corporate America, or even my own publishing company I’ve had people ask me to do work without an offer of compensation, any form of bartering or as my husband and I like to say, Mutualism. These same people tell me they admire my talents, but at the same time make attempts to circumvent paying me for the services that I provide as a professional. I don’t get mad because I actually find it humorous.
My schedule is always busy. Often, I am asked how do I do it all. I still don’t have the answer. While working a full-time job I manage to help run a publishing company, do volunteer work, be a mentor, attend speaking engagements, attend networking events, conduct seminars, prepare for a national pageant, maintain a home and marriage…are you getting the point? So, imagine how awkward it is for people to ask me to 1) Do their resume 2) Provide pageant consulting for their daughter 3) Edit their manuscript 4) Assist them with their fashion show 5) Proofread their class report 6) Show them how to use Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, etc. 7) Help them pick out a wig (Don’t laugh. Yes, I have had multiple people contact me to schedule a day to help them pick out a wig) and do it all for free.
I don’t mind doing any of the above, because I enjoy helping people, however it’s important that people understand time is valuable. The time I take away from doing what is on my daily tasks list to help others means I have to double up on my own work while still trying to provide quality service, for free, because at the end of the day I am still a professional.
When asking someone to work with you keep in mind that if you admire their work then others do too. This means your request may not be and most of the time isn’t unique. It also means that you may not be the only one hoping the professional will provide you services at no charge. Respect the talent of professionals when you ask them to do you a “small” favor or work for free. Come to the table with something to bargain with that makes it worthwhile for both parties. Even when your budget is small or non-existent it helps to find out what you can negotiate. Often, service providers will offer discounts in exchange for advertisement on flyers or event programs. They will also offer free service if they will receive equivalent non-monetary compensation.
Whatever you do, don’t ever think it’s okay to just ask someone to do something they do for a living for free.