The Pros and Whoas of Doing It Pro-Bono

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The last thing any business executive or entrepreneur wants to hear is “work for free”.  That phrase has been seen as the leech of the business world.  Why would anyone want to do anything for no cost or exchange?  What if I said if the free work doesn’t have to be for non-profit?  What if I also said that this work could grow yourself and your business at the same time? And that any company can provide free work and still thrive?  Whoa, whoa whoa.  I know what you’re thinking.  “There’s no way that any company can give out free work­­––how do they stay afloat?”

Well, I’ll tell you how this can work. The two key elements to make “free work” happen successfully are: content and reason.  These two ideas help businesses structure their free work in a professional and smart way.


So let’s talk about content.  Content is what your work consists of––what it is providing for people, the consumers and/or person receiving the free work.  For example, a design firm may provide a free series of posters for a small event in town.  This event could be for promoting local food within the city.  That content, promotion of something better for the community, is key to determining whether to provide this work for free.  An example of bad content would be providing say free DJ service for a celebrity party or a wedding.  What does that provide for the community, and more importantly what does that provide for your business?  Does it say something positive and inspiring about your business? If not, then that might be a signal not to provide the service at no cost.   Doing work pro-bono is a delicate relationship.  One just has to be aware of all benefits and consequences that would come from doing something for free.


Now for the biggest factor: reason.  Why do we do the things we do?  It’s a question of the ages, and sadly sometimes one of the hardest aspects to be aware of in a business.  The standard notion for reason is to make money.  Yes, money does make a business thrive or die, but reason, more importantly, has a much deeper impact on a company.  If done correctly, the reason to do pro-bono work can be both for money and for something bigger.  One must look at the intended free service.

Questions to ask would be:

  • Is this something that will benefit my community?
  • Is this person or company in real need of help?
  • What would the potential benefits for my company be?
  • How many resources does this require?
  • How much time will this take me to complete?

Doing work for free has many benefits for all types of companies and entrepreneurs.  It can make your business “the hero”.  Not many people can say they saved another business or person by providing a free service.  It has such a rich positive energy and can inspire others, or better yet, bring them to your company as customers.

In today’s society, it is a complex mix of service and product.  It is a tangle of cost and profit.  It is hard to keep a business afloat and even harder to keep it growing.  Doing work for free sounds like the worst idea, but during this day in age, providing something for free is so rare, that sometimes it’s good to go against the grain.