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Who Gets Your Services for Free?

One of my specialties is academic editing–it probably helps that I’ve been helping Micah with his papers since we were first dating. Right now I’m working on his dissertation and was joking with him that I should charge for my services. But since our finances are merged, that wouldn’t really work. So he’s paying me in back and footrubs.

Whether you’re a freelancer or homemaker or salaried employee (or other), you likely have skills you could charge for. Maybe you make nice baby quilts. Or perhaps you’re really good at fixing peoples computers or helping them with CSS (shout out to Gibble!).

I don’t charge Micah (really, though, I should come up with backrub invoices) or some of the people I’m closest to. I also give away some of my sewing services as a volunteer. One problem with becoming a legitimate freelancer is that in college I would pretty much edit for anyone. And other English majors/friends would return the favor—which was a kind of payment.

As a skilled individual, one of the things you need to figure out is who you charge, who gets discounts, and who gets it for free.

Who gets your services for free? Who has to pay? Who gets discounts?


Megan January 30, 2008 at 1:14 pm

One of my good friends in college had a VERY hard time writing English papers. I would often help him out in return for pizza or some other college fare. Much like you bartered with other English majors on your papers.

I had briefly thought about offering to edit papers for college kids for a small fee, unfortunately, my grammar isn’t quite strong enough. I always edit more by what “sounds” or “reads” right, I really am not that up on grammar rules. I guess I should bone up and earn some extra cash!

Meg from The Bargain Queens & All About Appearances January 30, 2008 at 1:17 pm

I do a lot of free and almost free work, though I charged $1000 for a web site even though my husband is a part owner (actually, I’m also a part owner now, too).

I’m exchanging web site help for saxophone lessons, but I’m kicking myself for not suggesting something similar with my chorus teacher when I offered to make them a web site.

I’m also starting to question a system where I kick my butt singing and playing music and have to pay to do it. I’m hoping to get a music scholarship next year (I started too late last fall to get one), but I’m also thinking that playing professionally might not be too bad even if I don’t make much at all.

English Major January 30, 2008 at 1:36 pm

I’m a killer editor. My friends know it, and I don’t charge them for any help I give them. I’ve been editing a bunch of my friends’ grad school essays lately.

If I had some time (which I don’t right now, but I might later…), how do you think I might go about cashing in on this skill? Fliers on college bulletin boards? Craigslist?

Laura January 30, 2008 at 1:37 pm

My husband and I help with some basic tech problems. We got my aunt’s house on a wireless network. We got ‘paid’ with food, does that count?

m January 30, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I don’t charge friends or family of course. Other than that, I’ve done a lot of tutoring, editing/writing/copy editing/proofreading work for pay for people who I know in a professional way only, for and organizations. It’s a pretty clear line for me as to who gets charged and who doesn’t. Then again, just because I wouldn’t charge a friend doesn’t mean I’d edit, say, a novel for them for free, obviously. There are time (and other) constraints.

That One Caveman January 30, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Now that I’ve formally launched my company, the only people who get free service are those who received free service before, with the understanding that paying customers will have first access to my time. And I offer a 30% discount to those who are referred to me through church – a easy way to increase my exposure and grow my business with people who already know me.

mrsmicah January 30, 2008 at 4:19 pm

English Major — I advertise via Craigslist and word-of-mouth mostly. I wouldn’t be surprised if fliers in graduate areas of a campus would work too. The problem for me is that I’m not familiar with some of the local campus’s bulletin board systems.

You pretty much have to target graduate students, and especially those working on theses or dissertations. They’re the most likely to value their work enough to hire help, not just to get a fellow-student to look over it (or maybe they can’t get one because it’s such a long paper). Undergrads with senior projects might also be willing to pay.

RacerX January 30, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Your husband get them for free, family at a discount, strangers at List Price and annoying telemarketers at 20% more πŸ™‚

Llama Money January 30, 2008 at 6:46 pm

I give out financial advice at work for free every day. Sadly, most of the time my advice is ignored, and foolish decisions are made as a result.

I have succeeded in talking a few people out of ridiculous purchases though, which makes it all worth it.

E.C. January 30, 2008 at 10:22 pm

The other night when I got together with my brother to “work on homework” when I had most of it done and he hadn’t even started, I was tempted to tell him my tutoring rates are $10 an hour. For the sake of family harmony, I didn’t, and I’m sure that he’ll occasionally be able to help me in return.

Early Retirement Extreme January 31, 2008 at 4:08 pm

One of the services I offer freely is telling everybody that everything they know is wrong. I think I should start charging for that though πŸ˜€

glblguy From Gather Little by Little February 1, 2008 at 8:41 am

Hey, thanks for the shout-out. Always more than glad to help anyone out if I can.

In the real world, I work in IT. So I am constantly helping friends and neighbors with various computer problems. I also try to help out my M-Network buddies and other blogger friends with technical stuff when I can. I really enjoy it, so always glad to help.

Oh, and by blog is free πŸ™‚

Randall February 2, 2008 at 10:22 am

I’ve got to disagree, no one ever does ANYTHING for free. There’s always a quid-pro-quo involved.

Investment Return
You working for your family – The feeling you get for helping them, the expectation they’ll return the favor, or a ‘paying back’ of the parents for their love and support.

Your work for friends – The building of your relationships through positive reinforcement. Accomplishing a ‘team goal’ that advances you all (roundups, group writing projects) and any from the ‘family’ area.

Helping random strangers – The enjoyment you get for helping the world be a little better place, the opportunity to exercise a skill you’re proud of and good at, or the ‘pay it forward’ mentality of helping someone that might help someone else (Karma).

Those are the positive, non-monetary rewards for pro-bono work. The negative ones don’t need to be listed, but exist also.

I like doing things for other people, but it’s also about how it makes me feel afterwards to make someone else feel good too.

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