By Owen Watson
Due to the strictly confidential nature of Business Consulting, I would never talk specifically about any one client. However, in this case I will.
When I first started consulting I was advised to do a fair amount of pro bono work. The reasoning was that it would hone my skills as a professional consultant and create a lot of goodwill with the client, causing them to feel obligated to refer clients to me. Good in theory.
So, my first pro bono client was a professional musician working around Melbourne who I knew quite well. I offered to work with this person for a period of time to help raise their profile and improve their earning potential. This person accepted my offer and so the sessions began. We met weekly for the first few weeks and all seemed well. The road map we were creating and the goals we set were sound and would definitely benefit this client both personally and professionally. Our rapport seemed very good. Then came the EMAIL. The email was telling me in no uncertain terms how bad I was at my job. This email was so long it was the only email a person could see with the naked eye from the moon. I was mortified! Gladly I have never had this kind of complaint since.
So, this is what I learnt. The dynamic when you consult for free is very different from charging what you are worth. If something is free it is often not valued. If you are a professional then, charge as such.
I only ever had one pro bono client and that was my last. Now, I have a seven month waiting list and they are all happy to pay!