Just listened to a video-cast from http://mattreport.com/ about “working for free” and I feel like sharing my comment for that video here.
It really is a deeply relevant discussion for any small business owner or freelancer.
So here …
Today a customer (CEO in a minor company) phoned me after I had done some website-work for him. He asked if I would do research on how to their site to be “the best in the country” compared to the sites of the competition. I said yes, of course, because he hinted that whatever recommendations I come up with, will lead to more work for me down the line. However …
After mulling it over for a couple of hours, I have begun to feel a bit reluctant about just doing that, well, essentially a detailed project proposal, if I understood the CEO correctly.
It is a firm a turnover of about 1 mill dollars per year (not profit, though), but based on the negotiation for the previous work I did, they do seem a bit stingy right. Maybe because we still don’t know each that well. Maybe because they have gotten burned by smartish marketing persons in the past (or so they say). Maybe because the profit margin really isn’t that great in an enterprise of their particular sort.
That might just be excuses. Or I might misunderstand them. But like the rest of you I have been down that path SO often: A customer tries to argue for a discount because
1) “there could be more work in the future”,
2) “I know x number of potential customers” etc.
Those kinds of attempts to pressure you to work for free or cheaper than what you intended, without directly arguing about price or saying “We don’t have the budget for that – what can we get for the money we do have ear-marked for this?”
What it comes down to is that I feel there is an expectation in this case on the part of the CEO that I do a proposal of some detail on how to up their website to ‘the best in the country’ in their business. I want to do it as well as possible.
That would be more useful to them than the usual half hour or so that I might spend, at the most, to pitch new customers. It would also up my chances of getting more work.
But I really have no guarantees and I have begun to feel a bit queasy about it, as said. So I will take the advice and think up something they can give to me which is of value and which is not money.
In return for the proposal.
And then depending on what they come up with I will decide how much work that is worth+some extra time as a simple investment in marketing.
I do that all the time – invest free time in trying to get leads.
But not without limits.