“Pro bono: done for free, done without compensation, for the public good”
I occasionally am asked by companies if I can provide voice tracks for little or no money. In most of these cases, the company is a not-for-profit and I can weigh the value of the public good against the value of my current bank account. OK, that’s a little flippant. At this point in my career I can afford to donate some of my time to a good cause. But even when I was just starting out, if the right cause came along, I would make the time for it.
However, it is important to remember that not-for-profit does not translate directly to not-for-money. Every group has a budget of some sort, or it will cease to be a group at some point.
I walk a tightrope on this issue, because in addition to my definitely for-profit voiceover business, I am the Executive Director of a not-for-profit 501c3 group that doesn’t have a lot of money. But, since this is a group of business people, they understand that asking people to do something for nothing only works if 1) the person is committed to the values and goals of the group, or 2) if the person is looking to showcase their abilities to the group in the hopes of more “paid” work down the line (and this works best if the person you are working for the final decision maker).
I willingly provide discounted or free services to a few select companies. In the case of for-profit companies asking me to provide services at a reduced rate, I have been known to accept some trade in addition to some dollars (if the product is something that I can use). I have even provided my voice free to regular clients when the mood strikes. Frankly, I do not get requests to provide my services for free all that often.
But asking me to provide my voice for free to an “unknown to me,” but established for-profit company for their marketing material in exchange for being considered for a future job (along with some number of other people) is simply such an outrageous request that I am still shaking my head in wonderment.
Likely, someone will do the work for free for this company – and perhaps that someone will be afforded the opportunity to compete for the other project – and perhaps they will even get the project. Fine. If I gave away everything I recorded for the chance of money down the line, I would be in debt up to my eyeballs – and that isn’t any way to run a business.
To quote Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers…
“Wagstaff: Where were we? Oh yes. How much am I paying you fellows?
Professor Two: Five thousand a year. But we’ve never been paid.
Wagstaff: Well, in that case, I’ll raise you to eight thousand. And a bonus. Bring your dog around and I’ll give him a bonus too.”