This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

How to work for free without losing money

I enjoy helping people, and lately I've been working for free quite often, and plan on doing a lot more of it in the future. I'm happy to do this, to donate my time and talents to help out, but I really can't afford to lose money when I do it. The expenses need to be covered, and this often surprises people.

And that means that I have to determine what the expenses are. And I have to be reasonable about what those expenses are! I'm an old corporate guy, and I know a little bit about what is considered an expense that should be covered, and what I myself should just pay for myself.

The best example I can give is transportation, and room and board. If someone wants me to travel, there are costs to be considered. I don't expect to arrive in a limousine, but I need to determine exactly how much it would cost for me to be transported somewhere. Here in Phoenix, all I have to do is to check the cost of a roundtrip on Uber, and if someone needs me to go to LA, it would have to include the cost of a plane ticket. My client shouldn't be charged for the new shoes that I'm going to wear, or the dry cleaning of my sports coat - those kinds of things are unreasonable. I pay for them myself.

In my corporate days, dinner expenses were covered, but not lunch. And that's because the company expected you to buy your own lunch, which you usually do every day at a job, but usually people are back home for dinner. So if I'm just doing a day seminar here in Phoenix, I can't ask people to cover the cost of my lunch - that's unreasonable.

If I needed to fly somewhere, I would need to determine the cost of a plane ticket, and transportation to the venue. No, I wouldn't need a first-class ticket, and I wouldn't need a luxury limousine - just basic stuff is fine, and reasonable. If I flew out of town I would need to stay at least one night - at that would be a simple place, not a five-star hotel. Putting together that information is my responsibility, and it's my responsibility to add up the numbers, and present them. A free 15-minute talk in LA could cost several hundred dollars, just in reasonable expenses.

So yes, I will work for free on occasion. I will need to have my expenses covered, but only reasonable ones. I have no interest in making a profit doing these things, but I can't afford to lose money, either.

You can contact me through my website and ask me if I'll work for free. If you have something that I care about, like Phoenix history, or wiener dogs, I'll do it, and all I will need from you is to cover reasonable expenses.