First time free lah

This is a condition in Malaysian commerce. My designer friends post about how they aren’t going to give “free trials” and freebies because, hey, it’s work, okay!

Working as a freelancer and navigating through the murky waters of business is tough. It doesn’t make it any easier when people come along, see your CV of more than 10 years, then request for a “sweetener”, because you know, “we could offer you a five-year contract after the first job because you have been nice to us”. We may be pretty but we’re not dumb!

A friend shared a poster from the Employees Federation of Computer Artists, India, that proclaimed that artists spend many years and lots of money to study design; years to achieve what they can do; extra hours to learn and update themselves on new design trends; and many extra hours to learn new design tools, among others. In which case, how can it be free?

And that’s just it. Writers, designers, yoga teachers, fitness coaches not only need to have talent, they also spend years refining their skills to give you the best that they can. With writers, designers or editorial work, we have that large risk that clients change their minds at every milestone, and sometimes we have to work from scratch because clients don’t know what they want, but “they will know it when they see it (or read it)”.

Let’s make it clear. At every juncture during the course of a project, when a client changes his or her mind and we have to backtrack and rewrite or redesign things, it is money. There is a cost to us. And of course, when the deadline arrives, and the client doesn’t like what they see or read, even though it was based on their specifications, it is always the designer or writer’s fault because, you know, “as professionals, we should have known better and advised accordingly”.

Why would anyone give that away for free?

Personally, I feel it is different if you are first starting out in a career and no one knows you. I worked for free the first 10 months I coached bootcamp. A friend and yoga student of mine, Bernie Chan, agrees, saying, “I was switching careers and people only knew me as a model. I put word out that I wanted to try emceeing and a couple of clients said ‘yes’. They were big events and for the first two emcee jobs I did, I was paid in products. I saw it as a stepping stone. I had to prove my worth as an emcee before I got my work.” I totally agree with this.

But not when you are established. Bernie says, “We make our work easy and because we love what we do, it looks like a piece of cake. People don’t see the years we spent honing that skill and learning from mistakes.”

And that is what I suppose I am trying to explain here.

A yoga teacher posted in a Facebook group: “If someone teaches you yoga for free, and then you pay $20 for lunch, a part of your mind is valuing yoga at $0.”

And this is the truth. I would add, if I were to give you my work for free, not only would you be valuing my work at nil, but you also could be valuing me at nil.

So no matter how “soft” you view a freelancer’s industry or how “easy” you think their work is, please give value to what they do. If it were really so easy, you would just do it yourself and not hire somebody else to do it.

Daniel is enthusiastic about fitness, yoga and writing. Comments: