Getting Down to Business

What Can You Learn from Mad Men?

Don Draper & Conrad Hilton

Standing in the Waldorf-Astoria, a conversation between Don Draper (the ad man of the series) & Conrad Hilton:

Hilton has just asked Draper what he thinks of the latest Hilton ad campaign, featuring Jerry, the mouse from Tom & Jerry, in the Hilton hotel in New York.
Don: “I think you wouldn’t be in the presidential suite right now if you did work for free.”
Conrad: “Don, this is friendly.”
Don: “Connie, this is my profession. What do you want me to do?”

How often do people come to you, expecting you to do work for free that is your profession? This is a predicament that lots of people face, and it is a struggle to deal with. You don’t want to hurt your friends, but you also want to be respected for your work, your livelihood, your JOB. Creative types already struggle with asking for what they are worth, but then you run into a situation like this and it all goes downhill fast.

I’ve had some really great experiences where I helped out a friend and the end results were worth more in the long run than money would have been, but I’ve also had a few not-so-great ones experiences, and they have burned me to the point that I finally had to set a policy for this. Realistically, I probably should charge them the same thing I would charge anyone else, but I am not comfortable with that. So instead I take a percentage off of my normal rates for our closest friends & family. It works for me.

The amount doesn’t matter — the point is to have a PLAN in place before the situation comes up. That way, you can sound confident and comfortable when you’re approached about working for a friend.

And remember, sometimes rules are made to be broken.

As for Don Draper? He did end up giving Conrad Hilton his very brief opinion for free (no one wants to think of a mouse when they are thinking about hotels), and in the end he won even more work from him. Sometimes you need to know when to take the calculated risk.

By Christine

Christine is an Avenger of Sexiness. Her Superpower is helping Hot Mamas grow their Confidence by rediscovering their Beauty. She lives in the Heights in Houston, Texas, works as a boudoir photographer, and writes about running a Business of Awesome. In her spare time, she loves to knit, especially when she travels. She & her husband Mike have a food blog at Spoon & Knife.

12 replies on “What Can You Learn from Mad Men?”

Great post – and one that every small business owner probably goes through at some point in their career. It’s often hard to charge people for a. what comes naturally to you and b. you feel grateful to be doing for a job-job anyways. But you won’t keep it as a job-job if you don’t charge a fair price for your services.

Love it. My rule of thumb for my own business is that I will only do work for friends or family if it is my gift to them. The reduced rates don’t work for me because then I deal with them not really valuing the service for what it’s worth, stepping over boundaries, etc.

I also give an invoice with the total amount zeroed out so they can see what the real cost is and so I have that on file should I ever need it for IRS purposes.

This can be a sticky situation, especially if you have already done “favors” for them.
I usually weigh the situation and my relationship to that person.

If they are a true friend or caring family member- they already have a pretty good feeling for what is “over-the-line” and usually offer to pay. Then it is my decision what to do.

Heh heh, I read another article about Don Draper’s…. let’s just say “unorthodox” methods in solving problems. If you search for “Draper that shit” it’ll come up.

Really interesting, and yes I completely agree – however it works for you, just have a plan. Plus, I really feel strongly that by giving stuff for free, (some) people see it as without value. Learned that one the hard way!

A true friend doesn’t try to take advantage of you. I’m always ready to pay a friend for their services and if they insist on doing otherwise then fine. But you need to have the attitude that you don’t expect it or your are not much of a true friend.

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