Free Work On Top Of Your Consulting Fees? Be Careful!

The other day I was asked by a consultant whether I thought it was okay for them to do ‘free work’ for their consulting clients.

“What do you mean by free work?” I asked.

They said, “Well, it’s not free, I mean, they do pay me, but I’m doing different work for them”.

“You mean MORE work on top of what your contract or agreement with them includes?”

The consultant paused for a second….”Yes”.

This is actually quite a common situation that many consultants find themselves in.

It comes about in 2 ways, each should be handled differently.

1. New to the Game
If you’re new to consulting you might be under the belief that you should do work for free for companies to get the ball rolling.

I recommend against this unless you’re doing non-profit work or have millions in the bank and don’t care about making money (those people exist, right?).

Even when you’re just starting out, you should be making some money from the work you do. You can offer your client a ‘special deal’ on your first project. But make sure you let them know it’s a deal so after you’ve proven yourself you can get back to charging a consulting fee that you can live on.

2. Sharpening Your Tools
For those of you that have been consultants for more than a few months you likely have been (or currently are) where the consultant that approached is when she asked for help.

Continuing on with the story the next thing I asked the consultant was how much extra work she was doing?

She said “Maybe 2-3 hours a week”. My response “No good”.

You see, if your client is paying you good coin and you find yourself from time to time doing a bit of extra work to get the job done and ensure you deliver the goods – there’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, you should take pride in that.

But if you find yourself going beyond that level, and clearly having to put in more time than what you and your client first agreed to…well then, it’s for you to have a sit down with your client.

Time is money. Most companies do have money. If you can help them to get where they want to go, they’ll pay you what you’re worth – as long as you ask.

The Alarm Sounds
If you’re in this situation right now you should be hearing the alarm going off this very instant. Can you hear it? The red light flashing around the room you are in.

Danger time. That’s what it is. Because if you don’t talk to your client soon you’re helping to mold their expectations that you’ll always do more work for them.

Guess what happens when they have a bit more…they’ll throw it your way and expect you’ll do it without pay. Why? Because you did last time.

So, put your foot down now. It should be a friendly chat. But let your client know that you’re having to put much more time in and that you’ll be happy to help them out … and of course, the additional work will be on their bill next month 😉