The best private college counselors in our industry love to share, contribute, and do their part. They work with under-resourced students pro-bono. They present at conferences. They share information and best practices with others who need it. And they do those things without regard for payment. They’re not all about the money.
But smart business owners appreciate that there is such a thing as giving away too much. So how do you tell the difference? How do you know whether you should cheerfully work free of charge, or seek payment for your time and expertise?
Professionals who deliver something valuable always expect to be paid. But money is just one form of payment. Here are a few other forms that can be just as, if not more, valuable than a one-time payment for services:
Will this help you get even better at an important part of your job?
The value of exposure varies from worthless (your article in a newsletter that nobody reads) to priceless (an appearance on Good Morning America). So be rigorous in evaluating exposure as a form of payment. A good start: Will this introduce you and your work to people who can help you spread the word to those who can pay?
3. Increased credibility
Is the benefactor willing to let you be open about your contributions, maybe even with a testimonial if you exceed their expectations? And even more importantly, will potential customers trust and respect you more to learn about the work you did and who you did it for?
Can you see a clear path from a first step that’s free to later steps where you could receive payment?
5. Personal fulfillment
Is this particular request something you love to do, enough that you don’t mind doing it for free?
Donations (of money, time, expertise, etc.) are not the same thing as working for free. When you donate to a person or organization that needs it, where you help people who will benefit from but could otherwise never access what you have to share, you do it because you believe in the mission and you want to make a difference. That’s why you expect nothing in return other than the joy of contributing.
But when you move towards working for free, respect your time and expertise. Smart professionals donate to make a difference, but they work for payment, whether it’s money or one of the forms above.