Do you ever work for free?

An email arrives from a client in Georgia this morning. (Chris Tilley of gnoggin Studios.) There was one word wrong in the script I recorded for them earlier this week, something the client didn’t notice until they were listening back to the finished piece. Could I re-record the paragraph, he asks, and how much will it cost?

I was sitting in the studio editing an eLearning project when the email arrived, so I quickly pulled up the previous audio to make sure I had the tone and pace of that narration in mind and did a couple of quick takes of the paragraph. Save. Upload to my server. Email a reply. The entire process takes less than 5 minutes and I needed a short break from my editing job anyway. I mention in my email “no charge” just because it seemed like the right thing to do this morning.

Here’s his reply to that email:

I can’t really think of why I like working with you… Oh well, I’m sure it will come to me. 🙂

Sometimes you make more than money in this business. You make friends.

Oh, and my answer back?

Maybe it’s because I love working with you? Because I do. And you’re entirely welcome.

I do love my job, mostly I suppose because I love working with my clients.

(Updated to add Chris’ name is web link.)


  1. Making a customer’s day will pay often not only in karma, but in dollars. People remember when you do them a favor.

    Comment by Jeffrey Kafer — March 5, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

  2. I can’t really think of why I like you… Oh well, I’m sure it will come to me. 🙂

    And to answer your question: Do I ever?
    Yes I do.
    For the same reason you do.
    Because at times it’s the right thing to do. 🙂



    Comment by Liz de Nesnera - Bilingual English & French VO — March 5, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

  3. Yes. I look upon it as another form of tithing. If it seems like the right thing to do — it always is. :o)

    Comment by Cira — March 5, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  4. Bob, I’ve done that more times than I can count. If it’s an easy fix for a great client, I’ll gladly do small pick-ups for free. It’s no different than doing a favor for a good friend. And having clients that are friends is one of the greatest benefits of our job. 🙂

    Comment by Maxine Dunn - British & American VO — March 5, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

  5. Jeff, Liz, Cira and Maxine …

    Thank you for adding to the conversation today.

    Be well,

    Comment by Bob — March 5, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

  6. Bob –

    A youth pastor friend and mentor once told me his rates for weddings and funerals was “either full price or free.” When I asked why, he responded, “Because my work has value in God’s economy. So it’s really not up to me to discount it. However, if I choose to give it away, that’s my gift to Him as well as to the other person.” Feels good to “give it away,” doesn’t it!

    Hope you’re doing well,


    Comment by Roger Marsh, American VO guy — March 5, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

  7. Bob,
    I sometimes do little bits like that for free – but not always. For a contrarian view, your readers can see an article I wrote about creating counterprodutive business incentives:

    Comment by Dan Popp — March 8, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  8. Dan,

    Good thoughts as usual. I don’t make a habit of working for free. But, it can be a very powerful gift now and then.

    Be well,

    Comment by Bob — March 8, 2010 @ 10:37 am

  9. I love that Bob!! I do it too when it feels right…and you know when it does. A valued client – the wonderful rapport that makes them a pleasure to work with – is a gift that keeps on giving!

    Stay Well!

    Comment by ilene Russell — March 8, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

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