Merriam-Webster describers a freelancer as:

“A person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization” and/or “a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer”

In other words, a freelancer is an person pursing their own professional footing independently.    Maybe they have a business of their own, maybe not.  Maybe they’re working their way in that direction.  Many of us have started out as freelancers.  Offering our services here and there, in between other gigs and maybe a full time job.

Then we have those “free”lancers who help out others…for FREE.  Kind of nice of them, right?  How supportive are they to offer their time and energy into something we believe in so much.  Yet, pro bono work can make you wish you were flying solo instead.  Don’t get me wrong, whenever we can get a helping hand that doesn’t send out an invoice, we’re excited and thrilled to have it.  However, sometimes, free help has its own price.

The best people to ask for help from are those closest to us: our friends and family.  They know us, they love and support us and are more likely to support our business dream.  They are also the most likely to offer their help because they want to show us they care.  Be wary, though.

  • Make sure never to ask too much of someone’s “free” help.  You may need a lot more of their time and services, but don’t ask for it all, or at least, not up front and not right away.  Your friends and family have a life too.  They have family and friends and a career and bills to take care of.  Asking them to help with too much of your business is like asking them to put your priorities above their own.  Helping you will quickly turn into something they’ll regret, then quit shortly after and leave you back at square one.
  • Set agreed upon deadlines.  This ensures you know what is being taken care of and when it should be completed.  It also lets whoever is helping you know that you’re on a time crunch, you need things taken care of sooner rather later.  But also let them know that if they cannot complete the task in whatever amount of time you guys agreed on, to call you so you can find someone else who can as soon as possible.
  • Have a backup a person ready just in case.  And it wouldn’t hurt to have that person be someone you’re paying. You might be thinking, well why not pay someone during the first go-around?  The truth is, very few people have all the money they need right off the back to get their business rolling.  And a lot of the time we need someone who will help for no  cost.  Now, if that “free”lancer can’t get the job done, see what you can spare to hire someone.
  • Barter. Barter-barter-barter.  You may not be able to pay someone, but you can definitely offer them something they want or need that doesn’t require cash.  It never hurts  to ask.  See if there is some service-for-service deal they’re willing to make you, agree to conditions and go from there.
  • If a “free”lancer isn’t working out, move on!  Seriously.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in, ‘well, that’s my friend,’ or ‘that’s my sister-brother-cousin-uncle-aunt-niece-whoever’ .  It’s better to cut your losses sooner and save the relationship instead of trying to spare their feelings and waste precious time waiting.  A lot of successful things happen due to the right timing, and if you’re waiting for your “free”lancer to get it together, you may have missed the boat.

The next time you think about asking and accepting someone’s offer for help, weigh the pros and cons of having this “free”lancer.  Will you be better off just trying to figure everything out on your own?  Can you afford to hire and pay someone?  Is this person someone you can rely on to help you as best they can and if it doesn’t work out, can you still maintain the relationship?  The best things in life may be free, but in case, check for any hidden costs.


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