Work for Trade should not = Work for Free

by Angelique on December 8, 2009

illustration of woman standing at lecternToday I am going to have to tell the nice lady at the [ name withheld to protect the well-intentioned ] that I cannot teach a three-day, eight-hour seminar in exchange for membership.

It doesn’t matter that they will do all they can to promote my services to their members (although this offer would carry more weight if they were stronger at promotion.) It also doesn’t matter that they believe the class participants will recommend me to their peers (although, again, this offer would carry more weight if I knew they had a large number of members who are serious about implementing a social networking campaign.)

Ultimately, they are asking me to give away the store, and that’s just bad business.

An eight-hour class is not an overview. You can’t fill eight hours with generalizations and recommendations that the participants hire me and my colleagues to take their projects to the next level. My eight-hour “Understanding and Using Social Networking Services” class is designed to give concrete instructions to newbies. I take them “behind the scenes” of services in which they have never participated. They establish accounts and design profiles live. I critique their copy and graphics. This is a class that demystifies social networks for people who have never used them, truly and sincerely do not understand their appeal, but who nevertheless realize that the health of their business now depends on them.

seminar roomIf I do my job right, the two-dozen-plus participants in the class will leave with the knowledge they came for. They won’t need to pay me to teach it to them again. Will they want to hire me for further services? Maybe, but in that they are no different from people who already use social networks for business. I need to be paid for educating them. If the payment is in trade, I have to trade for something I really need, and I don’t really need that membership.

Trade membership for a two-hour overview, explaining the value of social networks for business and pointing to myself and other trusted colleagues for further assistance? Sure! Sometime soon I’ll be doing a one-hour session gratis for the [ name withheld until it’s scheduled ] networking group. That’s good business. That feels right. Eight hours in trade for something I don’t need? That just feels wrong.

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