Do these times call for more Pro Bono / highly-reduced cost collaborations?

Should you offer your services for free or at least for a highly-reduced price? It’s a question that I’ve come to think differently about in recent times. Different times call for different approaches. And more of an open mind. The last couple of months have driven a lot of changes and business models had to be rewired or extended. And branching into a different field or opening up doors to new clients sometimes enrich a portfolio significantly. Can it be useful to give your professional help away for free or at much less cost? Or can it even be a moral obligation?

What’s the perk (and downside) of pro bono?

Let’s take a quick dive into definitions: Pro bono means professionals offer their services for free or at a highly discounted rate. It’s a bit like donating your professional skills to a cause. Do good and talk about it. But taking it away from a pure business perspective pro bono work also means offering services to someone who might normally not be able to afford it or might not be able to afford it under current circumstances.

But it’s also offering your work for free (or almost free). And we all know: nothing is for free. So the hidden costs of free work need to be considered. These hidden costs could be that you’re giving away time for free which makes your service even more expensive for everybody else. Since you need to remain profitable, the work you do for free still needs to be sustainable for your business. Hidden costs can also relate to the workload that you’re adding on top of the paid work you do. This can eventually lead to too much work which may damage your business. Are all these hidden costs balanced out by the reward of doing good?

Profiteers and losers of the crisis

Recently I’ve seen the first tendencies and later consolidation of a division between people and businesses who mastered the last months fairly well and are now drowning in work and the ones who have suffered greatly and don’t seem to get back on their feet. It made me wonder whether the profiteers can (and in a way should) try and make the divide a bit smaller by, for example, offering their services to clients in need on a pro bono basis or with highly-reduced costs. A way of paying it forward but in the interest of all, pushing business activities in a more diverse and less divided direction.

Create positive dynamics, feed the system.

Give something back for what you’ve been given.

But is this even valid in a business context? What’s your opinion?

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