Why Smart People Do Shit for Free or Cheap

Over the last six months as I’ve been developing the whole collective thingamy discovered and old but irritating trend. Smart folk doing shit for free. Been there, done that. Never left a good looking corpse until now.

So here is your tip for the top primer on why you shouldn’t – and if you do how to make sure it’s recognised.

If anybody wants to volunteer to make a nice infographic of this they are more than welcome – I see this as a ‘living’ chart.

Why smart people do things for free when they shouldn't

Why smart people do things for free when they shouldn't

  1. Your model seems to be based more on businesses that produce things for free. But you are so right! The problem though is endemic of an industry where the supply far outstrips the demand. This is what we’re currently seeing in the advertising industry. Demand for services has dropped overall, or then has stayed flat while the number of suppliers has grown. At the same time, we see increasing competition from places such as India which is supplying the same work cheaper. Even here in Cambridge, the web industry is so commoditized that there are businesses selling complete web design for as low as £50. Sure it’s crap or very basic, but so many clients don’t know the difference it makes to their business. They think presence is presence, who cares how poor it looks.

    So more and more agencies struggle to get business and start giving away work. Awards work under the same concept, win awards, get more clients. So in the end, it’s all about getting more clients. Strangely, consultancy is also falling into this trap. There is now so much free information/advice and strategy on the web that somebody could literally create a google like search engine to mine it and upchuck free strategic ideas based on any business problem entered. Sure, like those slogan generators and logo generators, most of the stuff you mine will be crap and useless, but how does a client really know?

    In business it’s hard to compete with free. And then where does the money come from? Who knew that what’s happening to music is actually happening to every business. And it’s only those businesses with huge stores of readily available intellectual assets that will be able to mine the world of free. Funnily enough I see businesses like the trends research agency psfk doing better than most as they have huge swaths of free content, they crowdsource consulting (and so don’t have to pay any salaries) and they have several revenue streams (recruitment advertising, events, book sales, consulting fees, etc). The new agencies of tomorrow need to think like a multi-business that’s a mix of publisher/producer/entertainer/organiser/service provider/whatever else they can think of.

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