As entrepreneurs, Melissa and I often work without getting paid. The most common example from “my department” is talking with a prospective client about a new case, preparing a proposal, following up, only to hear that the project is a no go. Perhaps the price was beyond their budget, or the client wanted to use someone else, or the case was settled. In any event, several hours were spent, and often, money was spent; even paper to print a proposal costs money, not to mention postage or overnight charges. Many of our marketing efforts, such as speaking engagements for Melissa, cost time and travel expenses (usually). But, the impetus for this post is the time I spent this week on 2 projects. The first is an intense marketing effort and I willingly took this on – one could even say “I asked for it.” The second project was done at a client’s request, but it was for budgeting, based on information I had previously provided. Essentially, I had to dig through all of the communications, proposals, and emails sent to this client over the last year to find the numbers requested, and present them in a new format. Again, the many hours Melissa and I spent do not generate any billable time, as in we earned $0 for all our work. This work had to be done to keep the client happy, to keep us engaged on the case. I understand that. But, it is frustrating when the information is already out there and I am taking time away from other marketing efforts or other client work. It is just another part of the life of an entrepreneur.
People who lack the entrepreneurial mindset often can’t relate to David’s and my perspective regarding doing copious amounts of work for which we are not compensated. As an example, I have made hundreds of presentations to attorneys’ and insurance companies’ associations, most of which have involved zero payment to me. Why would I do such a thing once, not to mention hundreds of times? The answer is that everyone in these audiences is a potential client of mine; therefore, for the cost of a hotel room, gas, and a couple of meals, I have the possibility of bringing in considerable revenue for Magnus due to the fact that someone in the audience might hear what I have to say and decide to retain us. This, of course, is what is commonly known as “rain making.” Some of my social psychologist colleagues have scorned me, telling me they would never stoop to such lows as to make a free speech to a bunch of lawyers. I remind them that, unlike them, I don’t earn any money whatsoever unless I can convince an attorney, insurance adjuster, or another potential client to retain my services and one of the best ways to do that is to make a presentation that convinces them I know something they don’t know. This type of working for free is, in my opinion, part of my job and part of what Magnus, as a corporation, should be doing. On the other hand, I have never provided “freebies” in the form of giving advice to attorneys on cases for which Magnus has not been retained. There have been many attorneys who contact me (including one of my favorite encounters, when the attorney called my office, spoke to my assistant, and asked to be transferred to the extension of “Old What’s Her Name”) in an attempt to obtain my valuable assistance for free. The call or email usually begins with something like, “I was hoping you had some voir dire questions for medical malpractice cases that you could just shoot over to me. My case is too small to warrant hiring you, so just throw something together and give it to me.” After having been asked something like this many times, I have learned not to appear as insulted as I actually am, instead, I reply that all of the voir dire questions I write for my clients are case specific, therefore, I have nothing to send. I kindly request this moocher to contact me when he (so far, no woman attorney has ever asked me to work for free) has a big case that does warrant my hiring. Working for free as a way to bring in business is one thing, but being taken advantage of is another!