This is not spam, though I know it looks like it by the title.

I've heard a lot, recently, about freelancers giving out coupons for their services as gifts, and I REALLY like the idea (give it to people I've worked with as a thanks for working with me this year). Not a lot... five minutes of free music / sound design.

I was just wondering if any of you have done this, and has it helped your business or bitten you in the ass?


Sounds like a bad idea to me. As a former boss of mine once observed, if you work for free, you will be known as the "free guy." It devalues the worth of your services in the mind of your clients, not to mention underbidding the rest of the people in your field.

  • Makes sense, though I'd hardly consider gifted time as working for free, but I guess that's all my time in fast food. You give out something for free, and most of the time they end up spending more than they would if you didn't give them anything. – Dave Matney Oct 15 '10 at 13:24
  • Also, I'm already underbidding most sound guys. Not because I'm a jerk, but because I don't have my demo reel together, and because people that have found me haven't been able to pay for the other guys. – Dave Matney Oct 15 '10 at 13:25

Basing work (paid or not) on minutes is not a very wise idea eg compare a VFX heavy 5 minute short film vs a dialogue driven drama with lots of ADR & foley vs ten 30 second commercials... Each is only 5 minutes in duration, but the budget & real costs of each vary wildly...

FWIW working for free actually isn't working for free, it means you are paying to work because even if you don't put a financial value on your time we all have overheads (rent, electricity, travel, lunch etc) - fine to do if its a project you want to invest in, but otherwise...

  • I hear what you're saying... Honestly, though, I don't really know how to charge by anything measurable other than completed minute. – Dave Matney Oct 15 '10 at 13:26
  • Work out how much time is involved in every part of completing sound post & cost it! Then ask what the total budget of the project is, work out the percentage (sound/total budget) As you do more projects of different scales track that calculated percentage, then you have experience to help inform you if a suggested budget is reasonable or not... – user49 Oct 15 '10 at 20:46

I've volunteered for plenty of projects, and usually a statement of interest paired with a willingness to forgo payments is plenty. I also happen to gift my big clients at years' end, and it's a gift where it's the thought that counts, as a true thank you - discounts or freebies that are core line-of-business services, IMO, applies downward price pressure industry-wide.

Thank your clients, even throw 'em a gift now and again (but watch out - many large corporations, like governments, have limits on vendor gifts), but never give out the crown jewels as freebies. My clients have really loved thematically-related stickers, finger puppets, coasters, and other really fun-yet-stupid bits that show creativity and thought, even if the per-unit cost is miniscule.

  • Right, and the gifting as a thank you is the main thought behind this. I just don't have the capital built up to spend on gifts, or I'd give something else out. – Dave Matney Oct 15 '10 at 13:27
  • @NoiseJockey Good post, Nathan. P.S. GO GIANTS!!! You better be out there recording the roaring celebrating fans!! – Utopia Oct 25 '10 at 6:11

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