Never give your work for free

Makes No Cents

There are many ways in which giving your work for free might help you. But, for me, it has hurt my business many times.

I got a call from a friend of a friend, asking for my help on a web project that another web developer left unfinished (first red flag). I’ve never done business with this guy (second red flag) and we’ve only seen each other a couple times. But since he was a friend of my best friend, I said “why not”. I needed the extra cash and had no other projects going on and the time to do it. On the call he explained to me the scope of the project and what had been done so far.

I thought about it for a minute and started to say what I was going to do to fix it and gave them a really small quote for it. After hearing their needs vs what they had, I stated clearly that I was only going to patch the current work to make it decent enough to publish, and what they really wanted needed more development time and a larger budget. He was a friend after all, so in a way, expected me not to charge full price. Plus, I would only be patching things in a small time frame.

Well, it turned out that, even though I put my work plan in writing, they still expected a full rewrite of the project and wanted not only patches but a whole new design under a very ridiculous budget. It got worse: I planned it would take a week of work assuming that all the content was already laid out and the access to the files will be immediate. I didn’t got the file access until the end of the week, then I was expected to deliver by the end of the day. I sent several emails clearing things out and collecting the new requirements according to their expectations and sent the new budget quote for the project. Well, by the end it took two more weeks to finish the job, my friend got the impression I let him down with his associates, they had a bad impression of me extending time, and I ended up working more hours with very low value and feeling that my work was not appreciated and abused by the friendship.

There’s a lesson I read somewhere that I keep forgetting: Never give your work for free (or undercharge for your work). Respect your work by giving it the value it deserves, and its value is in the price. When freelancing all you have is time to negotiate and if you undervalue it you’ll get frustrated eventually. If you are going to give it for free or on a discount, make sure your client knows that they are getting a discount or how much value you’re giving for free. Otherwise, they won’t respect your work and won’t value what you’re giving.


5 Tips to Stop Procrastination

At the time of this writing I feel like the king of procrastination. I can’t imagine any way to get better at it. One of my most common ways to procrastinate is doing tasks. Yeah, you might ask yourself how is doing tasks procrastination, but it is. For example, instead of brainstorming ideas for a new project or business, I do the dishes, reorganize my drawers, untangle my home media cables, and so forth. Other times, when I want to start programming a project idea, I instead dive into my Emacs configuration file and try to “polish” my tools with the pretext of having better tools to code. Then, by the end of the day, I try to figure out other tasks or chores I need to do to excuse myself from not doing the more meaningful things. It has gotten so bad, that I can’t tell apart the meaningful things to do from the procrastinating chores anymore.

  • If I want to stop procrastinating, I read a book or web articles about procrastination instead of actually doing something.
  • If I want to organize my tasks, I read about Org mode instead of writing down things and figure out their order or priorities later.
  • If I want to prioritize items, I start thinking that maybe I should think about possible business ideas.
  • If I want to work on business ideas I browse for inspiring conference videos instead of doing something that can inspire others (and be me the one in those talks).

The story changes in details but the big picture is always the same. At the end of the day, I end up with nothing done but very inspired and well informed.

That said, now what’s the cure? Well, not all tips apply to everyone. As I procrastinated writing this blog post, I searched for “tips to stop procrastinating” and ended up with a lot of info that didn’t work for me, but got me started thinking on what does work for me.

So here’s what works for me:

  1. Make a to-do list

    Having a list to cross out is great for focusing. Of course you have to stop putting off making that list, but once you do it, you know what needs to be done. The book Getting Things Done recommends reserving one day to write down your list for the next week and review the past week’s progress.

  2. Divide and Conquer

    Break big projects into small tasks. You can’t build a mountain in one day.

  3. Don’t wait for the best conditions

    For almost all situations, there is no “best conditions” to wait for. The time is running and the time to get started is now.

  4. Information diet

    Avoid constantly checking social media sites, RSS feeds, Reddit, reading non-work related email or any other type of messaging system. Take a task on your list and don’t do anything else until it is done. Then you can reward yourself with some distraction…I mean, “inspiring content”.

  5. Peer pressure

    Put yourself accountable for the tasks at hand. Be it by publicly announcing what you will do, or only share it with a friend or colleague. Peer pressure and public “shame” are effective motivation tools.

If you wait for the perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done

Well, I don’t want to distract you from your chores any longer. I think sharing these 5 tips is enough for you to get started and for me to remember them anytime I read this post again while procrastinating.

If you have some time to spare, what works for you to stop procrastination?