Comps For Friends

As the season for FailCon kicks off, I thought it might be helpful to my friends and followers to write a quick post about my freebie-policy.  It’s also great advice for any event attendee and supporter out there.

I continue to be uncomfortable when friends ask me for free passes to FailCon.  Now don’t get me wrong; I appreciate your friendship, your emotional support, and your conversation.  But FailCon is my livelihood for 6 months of the year.  It costs about $36,000 to produce (increasing every year), before I see even a penny of profit.  If you had a restaurant, I wouldn’t assume my meals would be free.  If you had a boutique, I wouldn’t ask for free clothing.  How is this any different?

Now, if I brought friends to eat with me at your restaurant, a discount would be nice.  And if I actually sent new buyers to your boutique, a gift card is a nice gesture. And guess what, I’m happy to do that, too.  So to put it out there for the world, here is my friend and freebie policy:

1)  Discounts. If you have been a friend of mine for awhile and feel like we have gotten pretty close, please do not hesitate to ask for a discount.  I love giving my friends discounts to my events; I truly appreciate your presence and support.

2)  Working. If you want to get in for free, working the event is a great way – especially for friends.  I’m on the hunt for 15 – 40 experienced and friendly volunteers for every event.  You work for 3 hours and can attend the rest of the event at no charge.

3)  Selling. Of course I appreciate your saying “I’ve told some friends” – thank you!  But I can’t hand a free ticket to everyone who says that.  If you are my friend and want a free ticket, then help me with measurable sales.  Buy a ticket now and email me asking for a code to share.  I’ll set up a discount code exclusively for you, and track every sale you generate with it.  The minute 3 people buy a ticket with it, I’ll reimburse your ticket.

So please, before you next write me asking for a complimentary ticket – or worse, walk up to the door just assuming my staff will let you in – stop and ask yourself if that is really the friendly thing to do to someone working hard to pay her bills.  I’d hope you wouldn’t hand me $300 in free merchandise from your boutique, just because I’m your friend.  I hope you would ask friends – your first level of support – to help you spread the word, generate sales, and get you into the profitable range before you rewarded them.

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Comments

Helllooooo wise post: where have YOU been? Nom Nom Nom.

I get it from the perspective of a video producer and photographer. I receive 5 requests a week where each producing friend asks me to shoot 5 hours of video at their conferences. An hour of video shooting takes a whole day to edit down into 8 individual highlight minutes. The math doesn’t work out in favor of the requests. If I can afford to take a day or a half of a day away from paying work to cover a conference, it’s in photography, blogging, and micro-blogging.

We all do something for a living, and need to recognize each others’ lifeblood at work.

I totally feel you, Rich. I’ll be honest, I’ve asked some photographers and videographers to shoot a conference at no pay; but usually it’s because Im under the impression they are just starting off and trying to get their foot in the door. I’m at the point now where I’ve got at least one paid photographer at every event and only even ask someone to do film work if I have some budget to pay them.

Great post, Cass, and thanks for saying publicly what a lot of event organizers experience privately.

I’d like to add a twist to your post. When someone requests a free pass without offering anything in return, it puts the organizer in an awkward position, as you eloquently described.

At the same time, as an organizer myself, I’m often happy to furnish free tickets to people willing to offer something significant in return. Besides volunteering (the example you gave) this can include offers to tweet, blog, and otherwise build buzz and attention around an event.

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