37 Lunch: If it’s free help should I accept it?

Written by  //  June 5, 2012  //  Daily Juice  //  No comments

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Free’s funny isn’t it? When it’s offered, and it’s something we need, we rarely stop to question whether we should accept it. But sometimes, paradoxically, free just isn’t worth it.

It’s a little complicated how it came about, and I need to mask the facts ‘cos I don’t want to offend the donor, but recently a big organisation that I’ve known for years did a tiny piece of work for me, for free.

Because it was a freebie the work was done by the newest, most junior, employee. It didn’t go well. Long story short, I spent ages flipping between repairing the damage and silently ranting and oh how I wished I’d just gone somewhere else and paid for bloomin’ job to be done.

Yes, sounds wrong, but I wished I had paid.

Paying gives you rights. It gives you the right to demand that the work is done promptly. It gives you the right to demand that it is done properly. And it gives you the right to stamp your foot and have a tantrum (if that’s your style,) if it’s not.

Free doesn’t entitle you to any of this. Instead you feel obliged to suck it up. And when it’s your business, sucking it up can be costly.

There’s nothing like learning from mistakes so here are my thoughts on what to do if you get offered something for free.

How to work out whether you should take the freebie


1. I’d start by thinking how important it is for the work to be done right. For instance a Facebook page cover can be OK but tax must be done right.

2. Next I’d ask “Do I really need it?” It’s great to be offered something for free but if it sucks up your time, and you don’t need it, it’s not free. All sorts of things fall into this category but they are often precursors to being sold something. Say someone offers to test something for you and you spend hours fiddling about helping them. Not only can you find yourself in that awful position of not wanting to buy something but feeling that you should……but you’ve also wasted heaps of your (precious) time on it. Eugh, I’ve made this mistake!

3. Then I’d ask what free really means. If ‘free’ is the untrained newbie version, and your project is important, you will be better off forsaking free and paying for the thing that works. If free is the proper, but experimental, version, it could be worth it.

4. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or so the saying goes. So if you are offered something for free I’d take a good look at what is expected in return. Let’s say your friend asks you to trial their new product. If the only thing they want in return is honest feedback then all well and good, but if they expect you to do a chunk of work for them in return, for free, I think you need to be really clear about how big your ‘payback’ is going to be. I’ve got some great friends who have got themselves into a terrible pickle with this, so set the expectations up front. Oh yes and if the payback seems too high, don’t be afraid to say no.

5. Which leads me to the final point. Don’t be afraid to reject a freebie because a freebie is never completely free.


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