Long-time readers of this blog know my frustration over newly-minted private, independent advocates volunteering their time as a way to prepare to be professional advocates.
Newbie advocates cite two major reasons for doing their advocacy work for free:
- They are afraid / reluctant / don’t have enough confidence to talk about money and ask for payment.
- They feel sorry for the prospective client, and figure it won’t take too much time to help them.
- … both of the above.
The problem is, doing volunteer advocacy as a way to start an independent practice is the very best way to put yourself out of business. Growing a business is all about making sure your income is more than your outgo. You can start your business – no problem! But if you can’t ask for money, and you don’t learn how to, then it won’t be long before you lose your business.
(Can you imagine a lawyer not expecting to be paid? Or your tax guy? Or even your hairdresser?)
The consequences are dire for both you and others: if you only ever do the work for free, then not only have you lost all that time, effort, and money you invested in getting your practice started, but you also fail all those (hundreds? thousands of?) people you might have helped in the future if you had been successful.