When people read Creatomic and they want access to my network, my help and my advice, they’ll often approach me in a pretty fucking rude way. It’s often something along the lines of “If you don’t help me for free, you’re a bad person.”
The attitude is, if I don’t drop everything I’m doing to make everyone’s projects my personal business and top priority without charging a dime, then I’m a fraud and a phoney for saying I like to help people.
It’s pretty toxic, but unfortunately — it’s something I’m used to. People will always try to get something for free, if they can. They try to get something without offering even a fraction of its value in return.
And if you freelance, if you’re a consultant of any kind, or if you’re a small startup trying to gain your first customers, you’re going to be confronted with this kind of attitude over and over again.
You almost feel guilty when you ask people for money and they come up with a creative way of telling you to piss up a flag pole. But that guilt has been carefully designed by these people in order to keep you working for free, for as long as possible.
Here’s how to break out of that guilt.
I have a finite number of hours, minutes and seconds left to be alive. The average life expectancy here in Australia is 82 years, so let’s say I’ve got another 55 years left on this planet. Ok. So that’s around 480,000 hours. Sounds like a lot, right?
Wrong. Let’s say I spend 8 hours a night sleeping, that’s 160,000 hours gone and I’m down to 320,000. By the time I go on to cut out weekends, holidays, time spent with my loved ones, time spent working on my own business, time spent educating myself, building my skills, writing my blog, writing my books, touring, speaking, filling out taxes, getting sick and recovering and squeezing out a little time here and there to watch TV…how much time do you think I’ll have left?
Hint: nowhere near 480,000 hours.
So considering the fact that my time is already running out down here on earth, here’s my response when people want my work without paying for it.
“If I sacrifice a bunch of hours to your project for free, that’s time I can never get back, time taken from a constantly running out well, and time that my family will now never have with me.
What the fuck makes you think you deserve that?”
Business is business. I keep it that way.
I do work for free. Here and there. For the people who I mentor, for some non-profits and some charities. But I don’t do commercial work for nothing, and I won’t do commercial work out of the goodness of my heart or for any other bullshit that keeps me from getting paid the money I deserve.
I’m upfront about this. I don’t mess around. If you’re emailing me on a laptop or a smartphone that you use for your business, guess what? I’m pretty sure you didn’t rock up to Apple and promise them that giving you free devices would be great for their brand or portfolio or network. They would have laughed you out of there.
And if you really think what I do has so little value that you won’t pay for it, why on earth would you think it was going to help your business in any way? It’s clearly not worth it. How can it have a positive impact?
Here’s the last point. If you are serious about your business you won’t be giving everything away for free. So if you want to improve your business, why would you listen to the advice of someone who doesn’t charge you for it? Wouldn’t that mean they aren’t serious about their business?
In the end, people who want free shit haven’t thought about any of this.
They haven’t. All they’ve done is selfishly ask themselves how they can get what they want without paying for it. Because their business matters more than your business or your career. That’s an unacceptable attitude and it violates my principle of the *real* art of the deal – acting ethically and responsibly to get the best outcome for me without harming or disadvantaging others.
I know some people are going to have a whinge about this one. They’ll complain that they are the exception and people should work for free for them because their idea will change the world, because they’ll pay me later, because they don’t have the budget but they somehow “deserve” it or any other reason.
And to those people – as well as the international corporation who took 18 months to pay an invoice under $5,000, the startups who mysteriously disappeared when the final invoice arrived, the law firm who wanted a second opinion on my consulting fees and everyone else who doesn’t respect honest working people, freelancers, small business owners, writers, designers and developers – Fuck you.
I received this comment below:
This is exactly what I was talking about. Exactly. The idea that asking to be paid for my work is somehow whining or demanding charity or being petulant. As though to succeed in business requires us to shut up and just take whatever scraps people through at us. That’s not the case.
Never take responses like this or messages like this to mean you don’t deserve to be paid for the hard work you do. Don’t let people take advantage of you and call you out for wanting the bare minimum that you fucking deserve. Ever.