That’s not a partnership – it’s you asking me to do stuff for you for free

- November 14, 2019 2 MIN READ

Yesterday I received a very friendly, upbeat email from another business owner, who I do not know, which included this statement: ‘I was wondering if you were available on X to join us and potentially give a 8 min talk on “time management” followed by a quick Q&A with our audience.’

I am a time management specialist, speaker and author. This is what I do for a living. And so, I responded along the lines that I was interested in hearing more about the event, including the commercial arrangements for the speakers. This is the response I received:

We offer our speakers the opportunity to speak for free and we give them:

– 2 free tickets for the event

– a preferred rate for your network with a promo code  

– visibility on our social media : Facebook (4400 followers), Linkedin (1000 followers)

– visibility on our website & email database (+3000 contacts).’

As a small business owner, partnering with other businesses (big and small) is a brilliant way for us all to do business. It helps us leverage our networks, offer products or services to our clients that they might not otherwise have access to, and exposes us to a whole range of new clients.

However, my number one rule when it comes to partnering is that it needs to genuinely be a Win:Win.  There needs to be something in it for you and there needs to be something in it for me. The ‘something’ could be: 

  • money – please provide a product or service and we will pay you
  • exposure – please provide a product or service and we will give you access to an audience you could not otherwise have access to
  • good will – please provide a product or service because this is a cause you believe in contributing to
  • credibility – please provide a product or service and you will gain credibility by being associated with our brand

I have had some incredibly successful partnerships over the years, including working with a major clothing brand which dressed me for my speaking events (new outfits for me on the stage and great exposure for them to their target audience of professional women); a fresh food delivery service for time poor professionals (they bought copies of my book “Me Time” to gift to their time poor VIP clients); and a national recruitment firm who bought 1000 copies of my book ‘SMART Time Investment for Business’ and then flew me around the country to speak (for free) at 6 events for their clients (my target audience).


What all of these partnerships have in common is that they were genuinely Win:Win. Each of the brands I worked with shared a target audience with me and we collaborated to ensure we delivered the best value to that audience in a way that we both benefited.

And so I come back to the email, and my response:

Thank you for thinking of me, however the opportunity you are extending is not in any way an attractive partnership. By partnership, I mean a win:win where we equally contribute, with good will, to create something fantastic which we both derive a benefit from. Your offer is almost completely one way – your way. I am often approached to speak at events pro bono and I do seriously weigh up whether it is a cause or event I believe in, or, whether the exposure makes the offer compelling. Given you are obviously running these events as a commercial enterprise, I think it impacts your brand to approach specialists/ experts in their field to help you fill a room and entertain your paying guests for free or without any genuine attempt to extend a win:win.

Please stop asking me to deliver my hard earned IP to you for free. That’s not my definition of a partnership.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"