This is a brief follow up to a previous post, Tire Kickers, or Why I Never Work For Free. In that post I described how the absence of monetary compensation for my services creates a void of much-needed constraints. Particularly, without a direct cost associated with a client's requests, it leaves me with little power to negotiate in the process. And it in fact creates a stronger sense of entitlement in the client, with both scope and time demands increasing beyond the original agreement — since there is no perceived expense. Only when people realize the cost of their requests do they think more practically, more in terms of project objectives than of more whimsical, hard-to-nail notions.
I had suggested that I do pro-bono work in some circumstances, noting that I still show the client a quote so they know what the value of my work will be and therefore gain a sense of the costs involved on my part.
I would like to follow up that thought with a more formulated opinion, which is to say, I simply don't do pro-bono projects any more. I have never been happy with the process, or with the results, and I find myself resenting the people I am trying to help. This really comes down to the sad truth about me — that I have a very limited source of benevolence within, and under the stress-inducing circumstances of creative employment, it runs dry very quickly. As much as I want to help others, I have to protect my limited creative resources, knowing that my primary duty is to use their powers to feed my family.
Now, that being said, I am not completely a jerk. You will find that I quite enjoy showing people how to do things. If you want me to give you some advice or pro tips, I'm always eager to share. Ask anyone who's ever asked me for help — even strangers — I have a strong conviction to share my experience with those who ask, remembering those who cared enough to do the same for me.
So, in conclusion, if you're asking me to do pro-bono work, I'll probably say no. As a rule. I may under some very rare circumstances take on a project, but only because there's more than benevolence motivating me. Wanting to be nice is not enough to ensure that I will do the best work or serve the needs of those who need it. Instead, I am more interesting in keeping our mutual feelings positive.