A reader who offered a small amount of his services to a local organization at no cost in order to establish value and trust, got “more than he bargained for.” His letter (reprinted with permission and with blank lines used in place of descriptive words) read:
“Bob, I’m stuck for a solution. I offered to __________ for the founder of a series of networking events I just recently started attending. He agreed. In exchange, he offered me an event sponsor table at each monthly event. I wasn’t expecting that – I just wanted to do something to contribute to the success of this event.
“After __________ I also __________ in order to create even more value to what I had already done.
“I’ve created a monster. Now he’s expecting me to do this for all of the events he is running. In addition he’s asking for __________ as though it’s expected. And, believe it or not there are a few other things that require too much detail to go into.
“I’m feeling like there’s a whole lot going out on my part, but very little come in.
“As I stated, I was doing this to genuinely contribute to the success of the event. I’m starting to feel somewhat taken advantage of, I’m like an employee without compensation.
“I’m asking for some advice on a tactful way of conveying to him that it requires a lot of work to do what he wants, as well as the fact that my services aren’t cheap. This is really starting to become a burden, instead of something I enjoy doing.
First, thank you for writing. I’m sorry you have found yourself in this situation. It’s not particularly uncommon. And, I used your entire letter instead of simply summarizing it in order to be able to illustrate how far these situations can go.
With that said, the good news is that the solution is fairly simple.
Politely communicate that, while you’re honored he enjoys your work, your original intent was just to provide some really good value to him and the organization, both to contribute and to demonstrate value and build trust in you and your work. Continue by letting him know – politely and with no negative emotion whatsoever – that, for the work he’s now asking you to do, while you are honored to be asked, you would need to begin charging since that is what you do for a living . And, that if that’s something he is interested in doing, you’d be delighted to work with him.
If he says no, that is your out. If he says yes, great!
Regardless, as long as you respond in such a way that you “thank him for the honor of asking” and then explain the parameters of actually doing it, you can’t go wrong.
I hope that helps.
Friends, want to add something? And, of course, if you feel I missed the mark, please sing out. We can all learn from each other.