You've said before in the Daily Tips that doing pro bono work is a great way to develop business. I just don't see how, given that volunteering time is time I can't bill. Please explain again why this is not a money loser.
You are absolutely correct that replacing a paid day with an unpaid day is a money losing proposition - when considered on a cash basis. However, there are two things about this assumption that make false the conclusion that pro bono work is a bad idea.
First, we don't bill 100% of our time. We do spend time for which we are not being directly paid in activities like administration, research, conferences and other professional development, networking and calling on prospects. These all pay off down the line - some soon and others much later - but we do them because we see the connection. We are accruing assets that will produce income later. So, to say that every unbilled hour we could be billed is unlikely (but good work if you can get it).
Second, the nature of pro bono work differs than paid consulting. Your attitude and your relationship with the "client" are different. They see your commitment is to the cause and that you place service before fees. The people for whom you are providing services look at you differently and so do your colleagues. I am far more likely to ask a consultant to join a team if I see they are willing to donate their time and skills to a cause than if they are only interested in chasing paid work. Few may express this out loud but commitment to community is a reliable mark of a true professional consultant. Tip:
Contribute some of your time (it can be as little as a few hours a month) to serve your community in some way that leverages your consulting discipline or industry expertise. It extends your skills, introduces you to a new group of individuals, builds your community, and places you (legitimately) favorably in the eyes of your professional colleagues. P.S.
Aside from the honor of contributing your skills to your community, serving competently leads to requests for paid consulting services. Done right, you can replace much of your marketing time with pro bono time and get the same book of business and improve your community at the same time. © 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA