Making Pro Bono Work for You

Terri Lonier


I'm hearing from more and more soloists who are using their open (read: "not-yet-overflowing") work schedules to contribute their services to individuals or local and regional organizations. This pro bono work can bring many benefits, ranging from increased visibility for your business to testimonials, expanded portfolios, or enhanced project experience. Plus, there's always the possibility that when larger budgets return, an individual or organization may turn to you for a paid project.

Like standard work arrangements, however, pro bono activities need to be managed -- and that's where soloists often get into trouble. Somehow the idea that donated time "doesn't count" translates to it being freeform, or without boundaries.

Longtime Working Solo colleague and entrepreneurial coach
Jane Pollak recently put together a great blog post that introduced her 10 Commandments for Pro Bono Work. Her guidelines for "entrepreneurial generosity" provide a strong foundation for evaluating where, when, and how you offer your time and services. "The critical piece to using these guidelines," explains Jane, "is your certainty that what you possess has great value, and demands to be respected."

Two uber-messages from her post rang out for me:

1. Get clear...
on your what you have to offer (and its value), your responsibility, and your own expectations. No grudges allowed if things don't work out because you haven't established the parameters of your offer.

2. Be responsible...
and treat the work -- even if no monetary exchange takes place -- with respect and commitment. That respect extends to yourself as well as the other individual(s) involved.

full post is a must-read for all soloists who engage in pro bono activities. Volunteer efforts are a valuable part of every economy, and they can be both professionally and personally rewarding. We all need to give back, in exchange for the many things we have received from others along the way. What's important is that we do so with a full heart -- and a clear mind.

-- Terri Lonier, Founder,
This article first appeared in the Working Solo newsletter:
Copyright 2010, author retains ownership. All Rights Reserved.


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