Sometimes Free Isn’t Free

By: Dan Kennedy on: November 10th, 2009 14 Comments

A few years ago I gave a free speech. It is only the third time in the past 15 years I’ve agreed to do such a thing…and I was forcefully reminded why I don’t do it.

After driving through an epic blizzard in dangerous conditions for five hours, I arrived – to find the meeting planner or association person who had just about begged me to do this waiting for me, right?

Wrong.

As agreed, they had reserved a hotel room for me to change clothes in. But they hadn’t paid for it.

I had to find the meeting, find the organizer.

To be told my hour had been cut to a half-hour. The projector was not on a table as I had instructed.

The lavalier microphone didn’t work, clearly had not been checked, and the cavalier attitude of their guy handling the sound system: use the handheld mike or do without. So people at back tables had trouble hearing me.

The introduction was, quote:

“Now I’m going to turn the meeting over to Dan Kennedy, who you read about.”

Two people had cellphones ring, one talked on it while I spoke. At the end, no one came up to thank me – the audience just dispersed.

Early in my speaking career, in the late 70’s, I did a lot of freebies, mostly locally in Phoenix, but some in other locales. I can’t recall ever doing one and not getting a little gift. A plaque, a certificate, a pen.

Some group I can no longer recall, in Dayton, Ohio, gave me a piece of the barn the Wright Brothers built airplanes in, mounted and framed.

This is the first time and place I have ever spoken gratis and received nothing.

I could have been rude. I could have told them to get the mike working and get the projector situated correctly, and sat down and waited.

I could have just left.

I could also have canceled due to the extreme weather.

But I have this commitment ethic. I try to keep my commitments. I seem to take commitment a whole lot more seriously than most people, by the way.

Anyway, I was treated like an unwelcome stray dog, but I did what I’d agreed to do. But, two thoughts.

  1. Keeping commitments is not done because other people keep them, or because you get recognition or appreciation for doing so. You do it because it is the right thing to do.
  2. Never do anything for free – especially dispense advice or professional services. Never, never, never. It is futile and useless. People can get value only when they assign value to what they are getting. Yes, use “free” in marketing because there it is illusion and tactic. But do not do it in other circumstances.

There are certain fundamental principles of human behavior that cannot be ignored, need to be understood, because every time you violate them, you suffer.

One, for example, is the principle of self-interest. (Read Ayn Rand.) Another is the one I just stated.

There’s also this universal principle, from an early mentor of mine: “It’s ALL Your Fault!.” This led to the principle I teach, which you can find explained in NO B.S. BUSINESS SUCCESS: control = responsibility, responsibility = control.

Thus, that Saturday swiped out of my life for naught was all my fault. I know better. I extracted no price that would have led to my presence being valued. I had no letter of agreement signed. I deserved what I got.

A lot of people bemoan that life is unfair. Actually, we fail to grasp or easily forget just how fair life usually is.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.GKIC.com

    14 Responses

    1. Rob Anspach says:

      it always happens… the moment I stop following my own systems is the moment I allow myself to get burned

      and as Dan put it – free only works in marketing… free doesn’t pay the bills

    2. Rob,

      While I agree with you that it doesn’t pay the bills, from my previous understanding of the way Dan thinks and works, “speaking is just a form of media”, where you leverage yourself instead of paying advertising dollars. add that to the right demographic and the ability to sell form the stage… you’d think Dan would agree that the fee for the speech itself isn’t the point?

      Of course, the fact that the mike wasn’t checked, the organizer was an idiot, and the hotel wasn’t paid for is just insane, does that really mean that one should only speak for a fee?

    3. Dan,
      Out of all the people, you didn’t deserve that. If they knew how many lives you have affected, that planner would of done a better job. Maybe he didn’t know how. Maybe he didn’t have the money…a book at the library is free, and I know some of the books you have written are incredible. Dan I’ve never met you, but I wish you much health, wealth, love, happiness, and luck.
      Best,
      Ronny Engelke

    4. My current stand on free has been very strict, I repair cars and am commonly asked for a fee inpection and a free diagnosis. I used to get roped into this and spend too much time and be unrewarded for my efforts. Thanks goes to Dan as I every day think of him speaking to fellow advertising agencies lobbying for an ad campaign they designed for a company for free as he tells them he got ” paid ” to be there .
      I now am getting paid for my value , I had a backbone before but now its stiffer.
      Rick McMullin
      140 clarke rd
      London Ontario
      ricratchet@aol.com

    5. Charles says:

      to keep my own my promises regarding the circumstances…
      Keeping commitments is not done because other people keep them, or because you get recognition or appreciation for doing so. You do it because it is the right thing to do.
      Never do anything for free – especially dispense advice or professional services. Never, never, never. It is futile and useless. People can get value only when they assign value to what they are getting. Yes, use “free” in marketing because there it is illusion and tactic. But do not do it in other circumstances.
      thank you Dan

    6. “There’s No FREE Lunch…Especially with me”

    7. I realize that your experience was horrible, but would it have been better if you’d been paid? Or is the point that if you’d been paid, the sponsors would have appreciated you more and the treatment that you received would not have taken place.

    8. I’m amazed that this happened just “a few years ago,” Dan.

      I can see things like this occurring back when you were just starting out and fighting to get established, taking any speaking engagement you could get.

      But I’m really shocked that at this point in your career you would agree to such a commitment without knowing for a fact that you could count on the promoter to have the proper respect for you.

      But I’m not at all surprised that you kept your commitment nonetheless.

      Or that you are willing to admit it here in order to teach us a valuable lesson.

      A great example for all of us, as usual. Thanks, Dan.

    9. pligg.com says:

      Sometimes Free Isn’t Free…

      Sometimes Free Isn’t Free…

    10. coldjung.com says:

      Sometimes Free Isn’t Free…

      Sometimes Free Isn’t Free…

    11. newswala.net says:

      Sometimes Free Isn’t Free…

      Sometimes Free Isn’t Free…

    12. Peter Black says:

      While this is largely true, limited free offer may get your more sales in the future. For example you could use this free opportunity to sell them more seminars in the future.

      We are giving out 2 license of our web-based software and many of them got converted to paid version…

    13. Elizabeth says:

      I remembered this post and sent it on to the creator of the Ren & Stimpy cartoon. Fantastic cartoonist teaching an online donation bases cartoon drawing course. He asked if he should make it a pay site. I said definitely. His expertise and experience is worth being paid for and in his generosity to encourage new talent few donations are pouring in. I hope GKIC sees this comment on an old post and checks out John K’s site.

    14. Thanks for the tweeting of this post again. I will retweet this post too…. this one truly takes the cake!

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