Speaking for Free: Don’t you value yourself?

Jeremy also has a lot of requests to do freebies for potential clients – and the reason they give him is usually that he’ll gain more exposure for his business. I’ve spoken about speaking for free before as it’s something i feel strongly about.

There are lots of people trying to make money out of social media at the moment (and believe me, social media specialists are a dime a dozen right now) speak for free.  They are EVERYWHERE.  Their knowledge isn’t so broad, nor deep, they haven’t been around to see the evolution of social Networking sites – (my post from 2007 shows that we’re still concerned by privacy issues on Facebook).  But they are more than happy to speak for free at every event.  They don’t really value the work and effort that they have put in to learning their skill.

They don’t really value their skill – so they don’t put a price on their work.  They devalue the work for everyone.

I’ve been asked to speak at events – and I’ve even been asked expected to pay to attend the event as well.  This is loosely banded under the ‘sponsorship’ bucket, but it’s still the same way to devalue skills and experience.  Someone is making money out of my knowledge and experience.

That’s not behaving ethically or honourably.

Photographers have a particularly good point here.  People grab images from the web and use them in web pages and posts without credit, without a by-line. It seems that everyone does it without thinking of the time or effort that goes in to making an amazing photo.

I’ve changed the way I source my photos too.  I used to use bing to find  images – and grab them off the web.  Now I know that wasn’t ethical.  I’m now not comfortable with what I used to do.

I didn’t credit the photographer, or link to the image source.  I didn’t think about whether it was wrong or right.  I didn’t put a value on that person’s work.  I was caught up – like so many others in the fact that the Internet was a vast resource of information available to all.  I assumed that everything was free.

I was wrong.

I didn’t realise back then how valuable the Internet actually is as a resource. And that people like myself were contributing to that pool of knowledge

But now I’m much more aware or just how much work goes into making something of value.  Take a look at this image on Flickr

image

This photo is certainly not the sort of thing that you’d snap with your phone and upload on the spot.  The photographer has spent quite a bit of time getting this shot perfect.  Then he uploaded it for sharing – with a creative commons licence for attribution.  I use images like this under licence to use.  I actually use Compfight to find images like these amazing shots of butterflies.  I look for images that I can use.  And now, I always link back to the source photo showing how much I value the original image.  That’s more important than massaging my blog SEO by embedding the images on my site somewhere.

Photo sites like shutterstock, istockphoto and Webshots charge for photos – as they should.  Photographers charge for their time – as they should.  Everyone has got to make a living somehow.

Tony sleep puts it much better than I can when he addresses the “We have no budget” questions.   I’m going to refer potential freebie clients to his text – particularly this paragraph…

You see I don’t want your stinking “exposure”, I want mutually beneficial, productive relationships with clients.  I try to behave with integrity, honesty and fairness, and I expect clients will do likewise.  Exposure is the end of that process, not a means. Similarly with bylines.  I don’t require applause earned by being a sucker.  If free matters more than good, ask someone else.

For me, doing things for free devalues my skill.  It devalues my ability to execute on complex consultancy engagements.  It also indicates to the client that if I’m happy to give my knowledge away for free, then I actually might not be worth paying for after all…

Image credit: Flickr

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.