Jan. 4, 2023

Should You Work For Free?

Should You Work For Free?

This week I talk about working for free. More specifically, I discuss why giving away free food, and doing events for free didn't work out for me. I'm not saying that there isn't a place for it. But before you do an event, I think you need to make sure it's a good fit. Does it make sense to give out free cupcakes at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new car dealership? There are lots of people looking to trade your services for "exposure", but does it actually ever help move the needle from a business standpoint? What do you think? Let me know. ⁣


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Sponsor- The United States Personal Chef Association
Over the past 30 years, the world of the personal chef has grown in importance to fulfill dining needs. While the pandemic certainly upended the restaurant experience, it allowed personal chefs to close that dining gap.  Central to all of that is the United States Personal Chef Association.
 USPCA provides a strategic backbone for those chefs that includes liability insurance, training, communications, certification, and more. It’s a reassurance to consumers that the chef coming into their home is prepared to offer them an experience with their meal.
 Call Angela today at 800-995-2138 ext 705 or email her at aprather@uspca.com for membership and partner info.

Chris Spear:

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you had a great holiday. And I'm so glad you're back. Unless this is your first time listening to the show, and if that's the case, Hi, my name is Chris spear. And this is Chefs Without Restaurants, the show where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry working outside of a traditional restaurant setting. So last year, I had the opportunity to be featured on Chris Guillebeau, his podcast side hustle School for the second time, it was such an honor, because I've read all of Chris's books, including the $100 startup way back when I was first starting my personal chef business. He wanted to hear from previous guests about things that didn't work for their business, it was for a segment called failure Friday. So I thought long and hard about it, there's obviously been a number of things that haven't worked out for me. But I finally settled on the topic of working for free. I know this can be a hot topic, as someone who's followed Gary Vaynerchuk for more than a decade. Now, I know he talks about working for free, as do many people in the entrepreneurship space. But for me, it just hasn't worked out, ever. So I thought I'd share with you a couple stories from my own experience. Maybe you firmly decided that working for free is great. And if so, keep doing it. But as we head into 2023, I want everyone to be successful. Food costs are crazy right now, labor costs are up, the less you have to work for free, the better. You know, one of the things that I always get hit up for is to donate gift certificates to causes. And I want to support charities, but there's only so much you can do. And here's something interesting I learned, I stopped saying yes to giving them away, and instead asked the person who was soliciting the donation if maybe they had someone who would want to gift that in their name. So I put the ball back in their court, I say maybe you have a donor who would love to donate money. But instead of donating money, maybe they could purchase a gift certificate from me, and then give it in their name. There are lots of people out there with way more money than me who I'm sure would be donating money to these causes anyway. And I would say that 95% of the time this has worked, they come back and say yeah, sure, we would love to buy a gift certificate from you, and so and so is going to donate it. Awesome. I just wanted to share that little bit because it is not in this podcast episode that I had already recorded. But I would love to get your thoughts. As always, you can find me on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants. So drop me a DM, comment on a post. Or if you'd rather be private and send me an email. My email address is chefswithoutrestaurants@gmail.com. And of course, the show was made possible with the support from our sponsors. If you go to chefswithoutrestaurants.com/sponsors, you can find info about all our affiliate partners as well as show sponsors like the United States personal chef Association, and I'm still looking for sponsors for 2023. So if you or your business or someone you know, might want to be a sponsor, please get in touch with me. Like I said, my email address is chefs without restaurants@gmail.com. And today's show will be coming right up after a word from the USPCA.


Over the past 30 years, the world of the personal chef has grown in importance to fulfill those dining needs. While the pandemic certainly up ended the restaurant experience, it allowed personal chefs to close that dining gap. Central to all of that is the United States personal chef Association, representing nearly 1000 chefs around the US and Canada. USPCA provides a strategic backbone to those chefs that includes liability insurance, training, communications, certification, and more. It's a reassurance to consumers that the chef coming into their home is prepared to offer them an experience with their meal. USPCA provides training to become a personal chef through our preparatory membership. Looking to showcase your products or services to our chefs and their clients. partnership opportunities are available. Call Angela today at 1-800-995-2138 extension 705 or email her at aprather@uspca.com for membership and partner info.

Chris Spear:

There are many different types of personal chefs. But for my business, what I wanted to focus on was giving the customer a restaurant style experience in the comfort of their own home. For me what that means is not only planning a personalized menu for each guest, but also bringing my own cooking equipment and dishware and serving it to people at their table just like they're in a restaurant. So the failure that I want to talk about today is part of the marketing strategy I've employed over the years. This is not a singular failure, but one that I unfortunately repeated a couple of times. When you're starting out in business, I think a lot of people feel like they need to do whatever it takes to get in front of potential customers. For those in the food business, not only personal chefs but also restaurants, food trucks and caterers. That often means attending events I'm often giving out free food. On a number of occasions, I paid money to attend events where I had a table, got to set up a little display with all my info and hand out free food. Unfortunately, having done this three or four times, now, I don't think I've ever converted a single person into a paying customer this way. People love to show up to these events, shove a little bite of food in their mouth, and then move on to the next table. You're lucky if they even take a business card. One time, an event organizer convinced me that it would be a great opportunity to do this at our local mall for spring bizarre they were having. I think the table maybe cost me 100 bucks, which isn't a big deal. But giving out a couple of 100 portions of free food. That's where it starts to add up. Another time, I was convinced to do a dinner on a boat, I was told that would be a great opportunity. And there would be so many people from the food media there and I'd get lots of jobs out of it. The night was a disaster, I had to drag all my stuff down this long pier, carry it up to the top floor of this boat, and then prepare food all on a grill there. As for the food media that showed up, there were a bunch of 20 Something bloggers, they weren't really the food media, I was expecting their people who just ate the food, took a bunch of photos, posted it on their Instagram stories. And that was it. And as far as I know, I didn't get any gigs because of that. So what was the problem? Well, I spent a lot of time and effort positioning myself as the chef who provides an in home dining experience. As I said, that includes personalized menus, as well as table service, and usually a pretty entertaining show. I don't think there's a way to appropriately translate that same experience when you're standing behind a six foot table in a shopping mall on a Sunday afternoon. And of course, the caliber of food that I'm giving away for a little free bite is not going to be remotely close to what I'll be serving at these dinners. So why did I think this would work? I think I just kept hearing that you needed to get in front of people and that events would be a fantastic way to do that. To be honest, I've talked to a lot of people on my podcast about this. And I don't think anyone I've ever spoken to has said that one of these events turned out to be really successful for them. I think this is something that a lot of people, especially in creative and service lines of work need to think about. I have a lot of friends who are DJs photographers and such, and they all get hit up for free work. I know there's a lot of business gurus out there who preach doing things for free. But in my experience, if you've got the skills, you don't really need to do that. At this point. Now, what used to be my side hustle has been my primary source of income for five years. I've had plenty of customers without having to attend expos or work for free. I really hope this was helpful. Thanks for letting me share my two cents. Go to chefs without restaurants.org To find our Facebook group, mailing list and check database. The community is free to join. You'll get gig opportunities, advice on building and growing your business and you'll never miss an episode of our podcast. Have a great week.