When is it okay to do free work?

From the previous video and blog on free work and doing work for exposure, a colleague mentioned that in her business, she does give free offerings, but in very specific cases where the clients are paying clients who have signed up for retainer and premium packages. She also mentioned that she gives certain types of tips in her blogs.

This made me think. I absolutely love that she brought this to my attention, as I do this as well. And thought that another video on the “free” topic can show why doing certain types of free work can greatly benefit your business and marketing model. This is something that I didn’t cover in the exposure video. So here goes 😊

Firstly, as she mentioned, when you have paying clients, offering them freebies can be a great tool for customer experience. On the one hand it’s a way to give thanks to your paying clients, by giving them a little extra customer service and a valuable offering that they can benefit from. It’s also a way, and I say this bluntly, to reward your client, and thus an extended marketing method to keep them coming back for more. It’s like that saying goes, under promise and over deliver.

This type of free offering is unlike doing an entire job for free, because it comes from a space of gratitude, it’s in your control – you can offer any service or product or discount that you feel comfortable with – and it extends to your marketing strategy.

Secondly, there are many other ways to incorporate the free offering into a marketing strategy:

Depending on your target audience, most audiences lap up the free offering. And it’s a bait technique that has been used for many many years. Think promotional items that are given away at expos. As far as I can find it originates from the party favour concept, a party goer goes home with a goodie bag (and this was done in the UK since the 16th century). It’s the typical free shit strategy. Gimme free shit, and I’ll consider buying it in the future.

Then you get the classic, buy 1 get 1 free strategy. It makes it seem that you are getting more for less.  The official promotion that I have researched for this one, dates back to 1956, where viewers of a television show could earn Secret Seal Bucks with every dollar spent, and redeem it.

Now both of these strategies are becoming more difficult, as people are becoming more aware of advertising bait techniques. You know that the person offering the extra product free Is still making a profit. And you pay for the expo, so are the promotional items really free?

But there is a catch here. Many vendors do offer promotional items at their own cost. And other vendors make little to no profit on the buy 1 get 1 free promo. This is a question that has come up often – photographers want to offer competitions or vouchers to clients that are completely at the cost of the photographer. And that is okay and can be beneficial in a marketing strategy to get brand awareness and engagement AND it’s a technique that works for your target audience. It could create a buzz. But my question to you is: if 1000 photographers in JHB alone is offering similar promotions, why would the consumer choose you? Remember to offer something unique and different when doing this.

This free offering has definitely bled into the digital marketing world. I am not talking about offering free services and products on social media. I am talking about digital media itself. And this is also a technique I use regularly. How you may ask?

So firstly, this very YouTube channel is a marketing funnel. At this stage, and for the South African market, it is not likely that I will be able to monetize the channel. That is not my reason for starting Invoque.

As I offer mentoring and workshops, this channel has the potential to be a feeder for my mentoring programs and workshops. I offer free advice, based on questions that have come my way from photographers and creatives, or comes from learning from my past experiences.

YouTube, in whatever way you strategize to use it, can be used as an instrument in your marketing strategy. As I enjoy teaching, and see that creatives struggle with business, this technique benefits my marketing strategy as well as my personal love of teaching.

Now YouTube might not be relevant to you as a free feeder opportunity. But this is where you can get creative with digital media. Other examples are writing blogs, sending out newsletters, website installations of art pieces, submitting articles for free to digital media platforms, podcasts (audio and video), or even posting on Facebook. The key piece of information here is that content is king. Your content needs to be relevant, interesting and of value to your audience. If it’s spammy, your clients are likely not going to enjoy your content. It needs to fit your client.

The one thing that I have learnt is the 80/20 principle with marketing. The 80/20 rule is based on the Pareto principle, the law of vital few. Pareto saw that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. This law is used in software, in sports, in goal-setting, and many more. In marketing it looks something like this. Marketing and advertising have become superfluous. It’s overwhelming. It’s everywhere. But it can be done. And the 80/20 principle is how I get it done. 80% give, 20% ask. If it’s the other way around, your audience will find you annoying. They don’t want their time being wasted. So, make it worth it for them.


Thank you for reading my blog. If you are interested in mentorship or consultations for your business, send me a mail: info@lizbharo.com


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