More than once I’ve encountered clients, especially within the non-profit realm, that have one or more of their key services tied to a family member or some personal relationship that was initially put in place as a FREE service to the institution.
This post serves as a cautionary post to those that may be considering using such an arrangement as a means to save money. My experience has consistently been the following story.
- Company needs X service. (website, printing services, etc.).
- “Friend of Company” offers to provide X service for free. “Wow! What a great price!”
- Company gets X service…maybe a little late or slow in coming but, “hey, it’s free”…right?
- Company gets increasingly frustrated with delays regarding the X service but doesn’t want to press the issue because service was provided for free and to complain would be to complain to a friend or family member and it endangers the personal relationship.
- Company looks to upgrade X service but fears that “Friend of Company” will remove support and feel personally slighted if they opt for another service.
Now, let me state simply that I completely understand the company with a limited budget and the enticing nature of a needed, but largely unknown quantity such as a website. When you price out a professionally designed website, you’re looking at numbers that run between $500 and $5,000+ depending on the scope and complexity of the website.
However, let me state this simple truth that I’ve discovered.
For services that are CRITICAL to your organization’s health and viability (and I would argue that your website presence falls within the “critical” category) – having fees and contracts in place in a professional relationship is good for the ongoing viability of your organization. If you are bound to personal favors and relationships, you will only find frustration and, in the case where you are trying to build an organization or business, I would argue that you are costing yourself considerably more money in the long run than you are saving.
I write this as someone who has been on all sides of this equation – including the side of the “Friend of Company” offering a free service as a favor. I’ve learned and observed in my own work behavior – that you weigh your obligations based on the most primal need… “What helps me keep a roof over my head and food in my belly?” Free services are, in their essence, personal favors that often take a back seat when you are being pressed by paying clients who pay based on your ability to follow through on your commitments.
So – if you are an organization starting out and looking for help to launch your business/institution…instead of accepting well-meaning people offering free services that are ongoing in nature – look for people willing to donate money to pay for the service and factor the costs into your budgets. There are many things that are great as donated items or services…but for things that are technical and ongoing – don’t scrimp. You’ll pay for it many times over in the long run.
Oh – and this post is not a sales pitch. This is a cautionary tale to help whoever reads this understand the nuances from the “inside”.