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When to Offer Consulting Services for Free aka. Pro Bono

By Michael Zipursky

Don’t shoot the messenger though let me tell you, you can and sometimes should offer your consulting services for free, also known as pro bono.

The singular goal when it comes to your marketing in the early days is to get noticed.

That’s right. It’s not for everyone and should be avoided by most consultants.

Yet there is a time when offering your services for free not only makes sense, it can pay big dividends.

“I’m not offering anything for free” yells the consultant in the back.

I hear you. In fact, I’ve written many times that you shouldn’t do work for free.

However, there is a specific time when it’s a good idea.

And that time is when you’re just getting started.

Multiple Directions

When you’ve just launched your business, in addition to going after paid projects, you should also consider throwing some pro bono work into the mix.

The reason is simple. The singular goal when it comes to your marketing in the early days is to get noticed.

If your ideal clients don’t know you exist, they can’t hire you.

Strategic Offers

Think about approaching:

  • local non-profits
  • chambers of commerce
  • business associations
  • community groups
  • trade and specialist associations

You get the idea right?

Now, offer your services to help these organizations, or to put on a talk or moderate a panel or conduct a workshop.

Reaching the Top

Why do this? Because many of these groups will have boards and members that comprise your ideal clients.

Consider this to be marketing and that’s really what it is.

Sure, you’re offering your services, however, the goal isn’t to get paid directly. It’s a strategic decision that allows you to demonstrate your value and as a result reach your ideal clients and receive introductions and referrals.

If you’re just starting a consulting business this approach can get you up and running fast and often leads to your first client or two (or more)!

And if you’ve been running your consulting business for a few years and want to start attracting more clients consistently, be sure to take a look at the marketing for consultants program.

6 thoughts on “When to Offer Consulting Services for Free aka. Pro Bono

  1. I currently offer pro-bono work to drought affected businesses across Australia. These are family run businesses, not corporates, and the drought problems in Australian rural areas is quite large.

    Although there is a marketing angle to doing such things, I saw this as my duty and my joy to be able to use my skills and knowledge to help folks with a desperate need to strengthen their business.

    I do think it will help my business to get recognised more, but I also think that’s the benefit of doing your fair share to help others in need.


  2. Mensima Stanley-Pierre says:

    Professionals or not, Michael, most people don’t commit to what they don’t pay for. I agree
    with asking for a nominal fee to help know who is serious.


    • Thanks for the comment Mensima. Are you referring to this article or to a previous one?

      • Mensima Stanley-Pierre says:

        Oops I seem to have wondered off to your article on the “unprofessional professional” and responded to it in this space. My apologies!

  3. Georgina says:

    Hi Michael, I offered pro bono work as part of the marketing strategy when I started the business and it really works. Pro bono is still part of our marketing strategy for chosen new clients, as this allows the potential client time to interact with our company and experience us first hand.

    Jeff, we also provide pro bono work to selected people who really need our assistance, but not in the position to pay right now. AS we also like to ‘give back’.

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