I have consistently been told this is one of my most valuable tips:
Even when you’re volunteering or doing pro-bono work.
Often times when getting started people will volunteer their services in exchange for exposure, positioning, testimonials or to build a portfolio. This is a great strategy, but the challenge with this is that you can become a known ‘free resource’.
Create an invoice and deliver it to the benefactor of your work. You can apply a 100% discount so the total amount due is $0 but still deliver the invoice. By invoicing for ‘free’ services you make it crystal clear to them (and remind yourself) that this is what you do for a living.
If it feels weird, include a note, telling them how much you enjoyed working for them and how honored you are to gift them with your services. Shoot, tell them your business mentor made you do it!
The same principle applies for bartering or time trading. Even if you swap services with someone, present each other with invoices, keep that habit of documenting your value (and the value of your trade) in place.
There are several additional benefits to this practice.
- It makes sure everyone recognizes the value of your donation, gift, or services.
- Ensures they know your worth should they want to refer folks to you.
- Occasionally you can write off the donated invoice as ‘goods and services’ because you’ve now legitimately monetized your time (consult your CPA or tax expert for more on this).
- It will keep you acutely aware of how much you give away since you have a process to document what you invoice against what you collect (right? if not we should talk for sure).
I’ll say it again.
Even if you’re giving your services away, ALWAYS invoice for them!