Creative Leadership

Beware Those Who Offer to Pay Back Favors By Working for Free

I love helping people get to the next level in their career. As a result, over the years I’ve connected a lot of people to jobs, freelance projects, new clients, investors and more. In some cases, they’ve made hundreds of thousands of dollars (sometimes millions) over the years because of the connection. And one of the ways they offer to reciprocate is to do something for me at no charge.

For instance, if they’re a video editor, they offer to edit my next project gratis. If they’re a web company, they offer to design or build us a website for free. If they’re a composer, they offer to record a project at no charge. If they’re a video shooter, they offer to film a project without payment.

It’s a very nice and considerate gesture, but in most cases, I’ve learned to be grateful, thank them, but say NO.

The reason is that people still need to pay the bills. As a result, even when my favor was a very big deal for them, they tend to put the “free” project at the bottom of the priority list. So I plan on that free video shooter, and suddenly he just can’t seem to find a open day to schedule my project. Or I plan on the new website, and then wait months – or years – for them to get around to it. Or the video editor works for free, but the finished project is filled with errors and I later discover he farmed it out to someone else. Then disappointment, hurt feelings, and frustration happen because this isn’t what we both agreed would happen.

So avoid the grief because the bottom line is – nothing is free. As a result, when you recommend, refer, or connect people to a job or project, do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because you expect something in return.

It’s better to keep a good relationship than get something badly for free, and besides, I do believe God is keeping score much more accurately than me….

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  1. I get what you are saying, but speaking as someone whom you have helped, it’s clear that if you have helped many other people as you have helped me, then you will have generated a great deal of social capital. I think it’s natural for people to want to repay the generosity they have received. Perhaps instead of offering to do things for free, those of us whom you have helped could simply financially support something close to your heart – like your new not-for-profit The Influence Lab?

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