There are separate, yet equally valid points to consider in the working for free issue. Many people believe that working for free is sometimes essential to the start up and or growth of a company. This group of people says that working for free allows your skills and your name to get out there, and establishes you more as experienced in your field. It can also be an excellent way to generate word of mouth about your business, just as many startup companies give away free samples. In the beginning, you may need to work for free, either as an intern in a company or as a volunteer. These can be valuable ways to gain experience and connections. Many writers work for free, in order to build up their ‘clips’ and gain a name for themselves. Working for free can be a good marketing tool.
Others believe that you should not give away your services for free. This may set a bad precedent. People often ascribe a value to certain things, and the value they base on things can often be based on the amount they paid for them. Another argument is that it becomes difficult to start charging for services – it’s hard to go from a free or very inexpensive service to a service that actually charges your market value, and people you had counted on as clients may leave. Thus, there are those who say you should start out charging your set rate.
If you feel a need to give away your services, perhaps because your business is as an event planner and you haven’t got enough references, you can always have your services auctioned off for a charity. This can make it clear: you normally charge, but in this instance, you are donating your fee to a charity. This is also good for the charity.
Whether or not you work for free is your own decision.
Working for free is something to consider as part of an overall business plan and marketing campaign, and thus, the decision and the factors affecting the decision will be different for each coach or consultant. If you choose to give away your services for free, be sure you have a plan for when you are going to start charging.
Perhaps let clients know that the first session is free, and after that, it is your regular price per session.
The choice of whether or not to do work for free is just one of the many decisions you will make in becoming a coach or a consultant. Be sure to choose a path which you will enjoy and find fulfilling.