Asking for a Friend ...
This is a vulnerable post for me, but I'm going to channel fellow Texan Brene Brown here and share my bizarre experiences lately of being asked to do work for free.
I am a glass-half-full kind of a guy. I am fortunate to be running my own agency. When people ask me for help, I am usually very eager to please.
Marketing has long played a role in establishing relationships between customers and the businesses that serve them.
In today's digitally connected world, online presence is more important than ever. Your website is your business card. Good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can land you customers just by being able to get found through keywords and search phrases. This work isn't necessarily quick and/or easy.
However, at least weekly I'm contacted by someone who wants our services for free.
Sometimes it's a former client but it could also be a stranger appearing out of the blue who makes a request and then wants the service performed at no charge.
I will park a few examples here:
A former client asked for a two-hour training session for their new employee. The employee needs to be able to use WordPress. Granted, we've help build their website. As with any website, it requires hosting and regular maintenance and updates. Is it reasonable to ask for us to do the training for free? If it's so easy anyone can do it, why wouldn't the new hire just learn it on their own by Googling how to update a WordPress website?
We had another client who we haven't communicated with in 6+ months after we successfully launched their website. They needed a link updated because they have no idea why it broke and they need this fixed ASAP. When we proposed that it would require time on our end and that we need to charge for this task, they wanted it for free. We did figure out that the broken link was due to their recent change to their Facebook profile that we had no control over.
We had yet another client who we had done business with many years before — some SEO and some misc. graphic design work — ask us to review the logo options that another firm provided to them. As a courtesy we did look at the first round and just made a few constructive comments. It didn't stop there though, they came back to us for comments and feedback and guidance for the next three rounds of logo changes … from another firm!!! All the while claiming that they couldn't afford us for their new logo and/or website work.
You can't just pop into your dentist office and ask them to check out your teeth, but not expect to pay … life doesn't work that way.
I'm guilty of this too though, and I bet we all are. I know that I've asked both accountant and attorney friends for legitimate advice and expected them to provide it at no charge.
I look at this "issue" as more than just a communication issue. I think of it as an awareness issue. It's one thing for a friend to solicit advice from you and not expect to pay for it, yet see great value in you providing it. This is much different than a professional colleague requesting the same.
That's kinda illogical, I know, so I'll assume they do see value in it or they wouldn't request it. I'm starting to feel like these people want and need marketing counsel of some kind, yet they don't see enough value in that to actually believe it should cost them money.
However, these experiences recently have led me to doubt whether people just don't see the value in marketing services or if I am being too nice.
Where is the line between being kind and being walked over? Asking for a friend …
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