Cool job, no pay

“We’ve got this great new project/startup/charity that needs a great web site, and we  need a web designer who will work for free.”

Of course you do dear, and you want a new car, and a beach house, a bigger phone and a lot of stuff. But the world doesn’t work like that, so don’t be surprised when I say “I’m sorry. I only train professionals”.

I often hear:

“We can’t afford to pay up front because

  1. we’re a startup, or
  2. we’re a not-for-profit, or
  3. I’m your mum

It’s a really cool project, with a great bunch of professional to work with, and when they’re finished they can use this project to show everyone how good they are. This is real-life experience that we’re offering them, here, a chance to show the world that they are capable of genuine, industry standard blah blah blah ……

And (sorry, I dropped off there for a moment), and we’ll publicise them all over the place. Everyone who asks about our project/product/web app/idea will be told what a great job they’ve done etc etc”

Do they really think that nobody has tried to scam free work out of qualified people before?

Here’s my standard, generic response, in order:

1) You mean you’re an under-funded startup. Are you, your self, working for free?

2) I, on the other hand, am a for-profit organisation. I distribute my profits among my suppliers, like my landlord, my supermarket and my phone company. Are you, your self, working for free?

3) Yeah, OK. After I clean up my room

I know you’re on a restricted budget, and that your project is incredibly important, and of course you’ll be providing shares in the business so that they will become millionaires when you sell out to Google, but I’ve got a good idea. Instead of trying to get sponsorship from key producers in the chain, maybe you could go after your other suppliers.  You did say “we see the web site as a key component in our business plan” didn’t you?

Start with your ISP and see if those persuasive arguments will encourage them to give you unlimited broadband (and throw in a couple of smartphones so that you can use it).

Now hit up your  service station. They’ve got heaps of cash. I bet they will offer free gas in return for your recommendations on your site, and if you like them on Facebook they’ll throw in a free car wash. The building supply company should see the benefits of giving you the paint, your land lord will throw in the rent if you offer to put a sign on the building, and if you play them off against each other, you should get a furniture shop to kit your place out proper flash.  They would all kill for a chance to see their name in a link on your footer.

Keep careful account of how much you’ve saved, so that you can pay your webbies the going rate for their profession, and thank your lucky stars that you have managed to persuade these sought after, well qualified people to grace your not-really-all-that-flash business with their presence and skills.

Web production is a profession, OK?