Download: MP3 (56.7 MB)
There are only two prices where a product or service is acknowledged for its full value: full price or free.
For full price it’s obvious: when someone purchases at the full amount, they value for the full amount.
When a buyer purchases a discounted product, they don’t see the original price as the value—they value it at the discounted amount.
The only way to win by discounting is to become a discount brand. Discounts are always a devaluation.
Giving someone a gift or doing work pro-bono is giving them something of full value at no cost. Unlike with discounts, the recipient of the gift values it at the full amount.
In this episode, you’ll hear why I never ask clients for a budget and why discounting not only sacrifices your long-term profitability and brand perception, but it’s a big middle finger to your past customers. I talk about you what to do instead to create urgency and sell.
Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins:
- Projects should be focused on solving problems, accomplishing goals, and making the client more successful.
- Don’t ask for budgets. Budgets act as an anchor—now everything is expensive or cheap compared to the budget in the eyes of the client.
- When you lower your price arbitrarily to meet a client with a lower budget, you are devaluing your work.
- A $100 product on sale for $75 is no longer a $100 product, it’s a $75 product.
- Discounting sacrifices your long-term sustainability and brand perception for short-term gain and profitability.
- The only way to win by discounting is to become a discount brand.
- When you deliver 20x the value on a product, you can afford to increase the price—that’s how to create urgency without positioning yourself as a discount brand.
- Discounting is a middle finger to your previous customers.
- Treat projects for pro-bono clients just like you would a paying client.
- Enjoy your work but you have to protect the process.
- Remove features to charge less but never lower your rate arbitrarily.
- The only exception for using discounts is to reward loyalty.
- You can afford to reward loyalty when you don’t discount for everyone else.
- 03:20 Sean: This is my two prices mantra: you either charge full price or you give it away for free. There’s no discounting. Why wouldn’t you do discounts? Why wouldn’t you lower your rate? Why wouldn’t you run a sale on your products?
- 03:45 If you have a certain rate or a price that you quoted a project at, but the clients says, “I don’t think I can do that,” you start to get scared. You fear you might lose this job. The fish is getting away and you’re struggling with the line, so you say, “How about a little bit less? How about 75% of that number I gave you originally?”
- 04:09 Ben: Maybe, instead of coming up with a number, you ask them what their budget is.
- 04:15 Sean: People often ask for a budget upfront and you don’t want to do that because it focuses the project on how much money you’re getting (Related: e145 Getting Started With Value-Based Pricing, e146 Attracting Clients and Positioning the Conversation Around Value, & e147 The Nuts and Bolts of Value-Based Pricing). It makes it seem like the most important thing is how much money you get and as a result, the client sees you as an expense, which they want to keep down.
Projects should be focused on solving problems, accomplishing goals, and making the client more successful.
- 04:55 Don’t start with the budget question, instead say, “Let’s focus on that later. What’s important to me is figuring out what we can do for you and how we can make you more successful.” If you’re giving them a question like, “What’s your budget?” upfront, they’ll be thinking about that and trying to bring that down. Even if they have $2,000, they might say their budget is $1,500. It turns into a game for them and they’re expecting the price to be somewhat in the ballpark of the budget they gave. It’s an anchor—now everything is expensive or cheap compared to the budget.
- 05:45 Ben: It really is a game. Someone put out the first number, then someone puts out a number that’s below that, and you try to work your way towards a middle ground. When you’re talking about a client or customer who wants to keep their expenses down, they’re probably going to tell you a number that’s even lower than they have budgeted so that when it does reach an equilibrium, it’ll be closer to what they actually have.
- 06:34 Sean: If you start out with money or the budget, then the client will expect the price to be within that range. Whereas, they might have actually paid even more if you were able to discover you could solve more problems for them. If a client puts their budget at $2,000 for a logo design, a lot of designers are probably jumping up and down at that, but what if they really need a full branding overhaul? What if they really needed their branding assets rebuilt from the ground up, instead of patching the problem with a logo design? If you take it at face-value and do it because it’s what the client thinks they need, you don’t ever see the brand overhaul opportunity.
- 07:35 Another example would be a web development client that says, “I want a form and this is my budget for this form.” Most web designers will take that at face-value, bill the client, and send them on their way. If you don’t start out with a budget and you start out with asking what problems you can solve for them, you might find out there’s a bigger problem. It’s not actually just a form they need, it was just their solution to patch a bigger problem. If you uncover that and realize they actually need a new CRM and they want it custom built, you have a whole year’s worth of work right there!
- 08:16 You don’t want to discount your rate and you don’t want to go off of whatever a client is giving you as a budget. I would encourage you not to ask for a budget upfront. That way you don’t give your quote and the client comes back saying, “Well, this is my budget.” You need to position it as something that will bring them a return, while only paying a fraction of that upfront. The result for the client is going to be far more profitable than what they invest.
When you lower your price arbitrarily to meet a client with a lower budget, you are devaluing your work.
- 09:06 Every time you discount—all forms of discounts—are a devaluation. The value of the work or product is now less. It’s not a $100 product for $75, it’s a $75 product because you’re willing to sell it at that amount. People aren’t dumb, they know you aren’t going to lose money on this so whatever you sell it for is what it’s worth to you. It’s also worth that to the client. The client doesn’t value the $75 discounted rated at $100, they value it at $75. Matt recently told the story about manufacturing a wrought iron gate for someone, where he charged $1,000 for one client and for another client, which was either a friend or was just trying to negotiate the price, did it for $500. The person with the $1,000 gate was really happy, but the person with the $500 gate kept coming back to him wanting him to change stuff. It was way more work than the other gate. They weren’t appreciative they got the discount, they valued it at a lower rate.
- 10:28 Ben: If you’ve got a product that’s worth $30,000 at full price, would it be better to tell the client it’s worth $25,000 than to tell them $30,000? The perception being, “$25,000 is the full value, so I’m getting the full value if I’m paying the full price.”
- 10:58 Sean: Let’s be real here: studies show that $25,000, when discounted from $30,000, will sell better than $25,000 being shown at full price. People like discounts. They’ll buy a $27 shirt when it used to be $45. They won’t buy it when it’s just $27, or even when it’s just $25. They want a deal and the science shows that. We know discounts work, even if they’re fake. As long as the person doesn’t know they’re fake, they still work. A lot of marketers will exploit this. There’s no argument that it works, we know it does, but the problem is:
Discounting sacrifices your long-term sustainability and brand perception for short-term gain and profitability.
- 11:56 The long-term brand perception is going to suffer when you discount. The only way to win by discounting is to become a discount brand, because that is the direction you’re heading. You’re heading one direction or the other and it’s a race to the bottom. When you regularly or seasonally discount, people come to expect it. They see you as a discount brand. Even if it’s just a little bit, they still think of you as the brand they can wait until a discount for. You’re training your customers to value your products at a lower rate.
- 12:45 Prestigious brands like Apple charge full price and they’re unapologetic about it and they enjoy the benefits of upholding a very high-value brand. It doesn’t happen overnight so you have to think long-term, but if you’re discounting now, the only way to win as a discount brand is to continue discounting.You have to become a discount brand, even if you think you’re a high-value brand and you’re just going to discount this one time. It’s undermining. I’ve made a point never to discount my rate and my products, I increase the price of my products instead. With Learn Lettering, I increased the price and made an additional $25,000 in revenue in a weekend because I was able to create urgency without discounting.
- 13:42 I’ve told people I’ll be raising the price of the Community membership and we’ve been doing a lot of work because I really want to make sure the experience is top-notch for everyone before we increase the price. I’m increasing it and it’s never going to come back down. The reason I can do that is because I set a fair price and I over-deliver consistently. When I increase the price, it’s still well within what the product is valued at.
When you deliver 20x the value on a product, you can afford to increase the price.
That’s how to create urgency without positioning yourself as a discount brand.
- 14:25 Ben: There was question from Joe in the chat room I wanted to bring in, “What if you add 25% on top of your rate, anticipating the client wants to negotiate?” I think our conversation here is going to land in a place where you really don’t want to get into a negotiation with the client because that’s focusing on the wrong thing. I like the idea, not of adding more to the quote, but allowing the value of what you’re providing to far exceed what they’re actually paying. That can end up being more powerful.
- 15:12 Especially if you’re having a Value-Based Price discussion and you’re helping them see the full value they’ll realize from that investment, it’s better to be consistently in one spot with that than to try to over-shoot the price because the returns you get from being realistic in what you quote them and then over-delivering on the value are greater than the short-term gain of charging more.
- 15:54 Sean: People want to run discounts so they can make a quick buck. You get a lot of profit when you run a discount or a sale on a holiday. You’re going to get more profits and that’s why people run it. It’s a lot more difficult to do the slow climb of never discounting, because you don’t have excuses to bring people into your store. Stores run sales so you’ll come buy things, regardless if things are marked up so it can be “on sale.” They run a sale so they can profit and get that bump. It’s a lot harder to get that profitability, revenue, cash-flow, and income without doing these regular discounts to bring people in. It takes a lot longer to do the slower climb but you’ll be better off down the road.
- 16:47 You still need to find ways to bring people back. That’s why people use sales, but you can create urgency other ways. Make excuses for events, promotions, collaborations, bundles, increasing the price, or extra bonuses. Add a new module to your course and you’ve got reason for someone to pay attention to you. You’re in their mind, just like a discount would be. You can say you’re increasing the price, which creates urgency and puts the pressure on—“I better buy this by the end of the week or I’m going to have to pay more in the future.”
- 17:36 Ben: You mentioned adding a module and charging more, rightfully because you added value to that, but when you do that, is it before you increase the price? Do you provide it at the same price with added value and then after a week you bump it up to what should be the regular price?
- 18:10 Sean: Yes, and all prior customers get it too. An app I bought had an update just this morning that said, “The app is now free!” How wonderful! I already bought it! You know what I call the discount bin? The “middle finger bin,” because that’s what it is to all of your previous customers. You paid for this? I’m going to charge someone else less. You bought this e-book from me? I’m going to put it at 50% on a bundle deal site.
Discounting is a middle finger to your previous customers.
- 19:28 I’ve been harping on full price—charge full price! Don’t discount! Don’t devalue! The other alternative is to give something away for free. The reason there’s full price and free is because those are the only two prices where the full value is retained. You can’t say a $100 product is $75 and expect people to value it at $100. You can say a $100 product is free though. If you say, “This product is $100 and I’m not going to charge you for it. I’m giving it to you,” that person values it at $100 even though they didn’t pay the $100.
- 20:12 My goal is for people to value the product or service at the full rate. There are two options to do that: full price or free. When I say free, what I mean is pro-bono, which is where you do a job for someone exactly like you would if you were paid, but you don’t charge them. You go through the whole process. You send them the quote, you send them the agreement, and you tell them what the full amount is. You say, “This project is priced at this amount and we’re going to do it for you pro-bono so it’s going to be free.” They see that value.
- 21:06 Ben: If you can’t get the customer to agree upfront with the full value of what you’re offering them, then you can’t do the work for them because they’re not going to value it at the full price. That’s a relatively worthless interaction for you compared to doing something for a client who recognizes the full value of what they’re receiving. They’re enthusiastic about it, they’ll give you a testimonial, and refer others to you.
- 21:46 Sean: That referral piece is really important too because when they see the price, even if they’re not paying the full amount, they know you’re worth whatever your quote was for the project. When they refer you, they have that context and they wouldn’t refer you to someone that wouldn’t pay that amount.
- 22:04 Ben: I had a client that I did a free project for and instead of going through the whole process with them upfront, I thought, “These guys know what I’m worth. I’m just going to do this and give it to them.” I gave it to them along with a break down of what it was worth and they were very excited, but then they said, “I know you’re giving this to us but we want to pay you for it.” I thought that was fine but a couple of weeks went by without hearing anything from them.
- 22:41 Then I got a message saying they thought the original price was a little steep so they wanted to pay me half. I took the money but it was very frustrating. I was very close to telling them not to pay if they weren’t going to pay me the full price. The frustrating thing about that was because I didn’t consensus with the client beforehand on what the actual value of it was, they weren’t able to recognize it later in the process, so they valued it at half of what I originally charged.
- 23:42 Sean: If you did a pro-bono logo for a client and they handed you a $20, you would rather they didn’t make that gesture at all. $0 would be less insulting than giving a $20. Every step you go through with a paying project, do the same with pro-bono clients because it’s practice. The reason you want to do this, especially in the beginning, is because you need those case studies to build up a portfolio of work that will attract clients to you. The key word being “attract.”
Treat projects for pro-bono clients just like you would with a paying client.
- 24:21 They’ll come through your process because you’ve shown them what the price is and they don’t have to pay it, so they’re going to be more than willing to do this however you want. It gives you a perfect opportunity to practice your professionalism. Document it, package it up, and put it on your website. You don’t have to say it was pro-bono or any price, just put up the case study.
- 24:52 Show how you solved problems and people are going to see you have expertise in that area and it attracts clients to you. It’s the Rule of Reciprocity: if you’re chasing clients, it’s seem as asking them for a favor. You’re saying, “Will you do me the favor of being my client?” and because of the Rule of Reciprocity, you feel obligated to return that favor. When they’re giving you the “gift” of being your client, then they feel that you owe them, which tends to compromise the process. They’re going to be the person that bought the $500 wrought iron gate.
- 25:42 Ben: Even if they don’t feel that way, you will feel a sense of obligation and even the tiniest bit of that feeling is going to cause you to compromise in areas throughout your process.
- 26:08 Sean: That’s a great point, it’s not just how they feel about what you should do but because it’s a rule, you’re going to feel that on a subconscious level—“I did ask them to be my client and they did say yes, so I guess I should probably…” and you start compromising.
- 26:27 Ben: Nobody is above it. Maybe you don’t break any of your rules, but it’s going to be extremely difficult for you to enjoy that process because you’re also going to be interpreting every interaction you have with them through the filter of being the one who asked first. That’s going to color the way you interpret what they say, the requests they make of you, and you might feel like the client is being demanding, when really they’re just being a reasonable client under what would have been your normal process, had they come to you first. Because you went to them first, you’re feeling that tension.
- 27:15 It’s not just the potential for compromise or their perception of you, but it’s also your enjoyment of the process in general. One of the reasons you do logo design, hand lettering, or video is because it’s something you’re passionate about and you love to do it. If you’re the one going out to people, instead of letting them come to you, you’re not protecting that passion.
- 27:59 Sean: Cory has a client he’s working with and basically, they sent the payment but it didn’t arrive on time. The project was supposed to start and Cory still didn’t have the money, and he was planning on investing that money in gear to make the job better. Unfortunately, he didn’t use a contract so he has no contract that says the project can’t start before payment. The problem was because he wasn’t there on day one of the shoot— they had people lined up for interviews he was supposed to record—they had someone else get footage from the interviews. Now Cory is going to have to incorporate that into the overall project.
Enjoy your work but you have to protect the process.
- 29:18 Cory’s probably not going to enjoy this as much as he would with a project where he’s able to handle everything in an optimal way. Maybe that other person doesn’t know how the footage will be used, they’re not capturing the right angles, or they don’t have enough B-roll. He can’t get that back now because his process wasn’t able to be followed.
- 29:42 Everything that goes into the process starts when the client comes to your website. If you’re chasing clients, it sets everything off on the wrong foot. When you attract clients, clients come to you, see you as the expert, and they come under your process. That’s what you want and that’s the kind of arrangement that will follow your process, where you’ll enjoy the work and give the client an awesome final product.
- 30:36 Ben: Maybe you’ve had experiences with intrusive clients before who needed to have their hands on everything you did during a project and now you feel like you owe that to the client, but the client doesn’t want to do that. The reason they are is because you’ve left room for them to and they feel obligated to. Some clients have felt obligated to do that so many times that now they expect that from the experience.
- 31:20 Sean: It’s not even a restriction, it should make them feel good. You need to make it clear that it’s not the client’s responsibility. The client doesn’t need to worry about it, so tell them you’ll handle it all.
- 31:33 Ben: Suddenly they can sit back, relax, and realize they don’t have to be calling or checking up on you all the time. You’re presenting yourself confidently as a professional, who can handle your clearly outlined process and bring them the results they’re hiring you to provide.
- 32:00 Cory: Regarding pro-bono, can you talk about the differences in offering to the client and them coming to you?
- 32:19 Sean: There are two kinds: one is where you approach the client with a pro-bono offer and the other is when the client approaches you, and you give them your full rate, unapologetically. They say, “We recognize the value of your work but we don’t have that kind of money right now but when we do, you’ll be top of mind.” They respect you and respect your process, so you offer them a pro-bono project by saying, “This is my full rate but I want to do this for you pro-bono.” That’s going to be your ideal client because they’ll come right under your process and you’ll have a great case study from it.
- 33:17 I prefer this to chasing people but if you approach someone with a pro-bono offer, it’s not the same as approaching someone for a paid project. The client for the paid project would probably try to talk to you down but with the pro-bono client, you’re giving them something of value and they’re more likely to come under your process even if you’re asking them because you’re giving them a free project. It’s also less of an “ask” and the Rule of Reciprocity isn’t working against you. It’s actually working in your favor because you’re not saying, “Will you do me the favor of being my paid client?” You’re saying, “I want to give you a gift. Will you allow me to do this with my process and make a case study from it?”
- 34:05 Ben: If you feel any tension or hesitancy from them about coming under you process, I would position it as, “Maybe you’re used to having creative input, but let’s do an experiment with this project where you let me do what I know how to do best because you’ve got nothing to lose.” The value you’re giving them, not just in the work you’re providing, but clarity you’re helping them gain through following your process about what they’re actual needs are and what they should be focusing on vs. what they’re focusing on right now. You’re offering them multiple kinds of value and it’s a good time investment for them, if nothing else.
- 35:54 Sean: The place where you could bring down the price with a client is where there’s feature removal. Maybe they can’t afford to do this full website build-out but you could say, “Let’s not add eCommerce or a mobile app right now.” You can remove features to charge less but you don’t want to discount or lower your rate arbitrarily. You also wouldn’t want to remove features to the point of crippling the final product. If you’re removing features like mobile responsiveness, you can’t do that when more than half of people are using mobile devices to view websites. You don’t want to cripple the website so at some point you have to tell the client you can’t remove features beyond a certain point, otherwise the project will suffer.
- 36:54 Ben: Think about the way buying stocks work: there are certain stocks that are worth less that you can buy more of for the same amount of money or you can buy fewer of more expensive stocks. They’re not ready to invest in Apple stock right now because it requires a certain amount of money. If they don’t have that money, they just can’t buy it right now. What’s something you can invest in right now? It might even be something you can’t help the client with, but you want to help uncover that. Figure out what they can buy that will help them grow to the point where they can by stock in Apple.
- 37:53 Sean: I like that way of thinking. In case people need this clarity to understand why you wouldn’t want to discount your rate, there’s a few reasons. If you’re willing to arbitrarily come down on your rate to get a project, you’re putting more of an emphasis on you getting paid than the client being successful. You came up with the original rate for a reason and you felt confident enough to send over that rate. You believe the work is worth that and coming beneath that is saying, “I care more about getting whatever I can from you than making you successful.”
- 38:36 Maybe the most important thing they need to be working on right now is cash flow and not building their website or expanding their marketing, which you might have gotten paid for. Maybe the most important thing for them isn’t this work right now and, as a professional, it’s you’re job to tell them that. If you bring your car into a mechanic, you don’t want them to fix something regardless of whether it needed to be fixed or not and ignore something else that should be fixed.
- 39:08 You want them to tell you, “You probably shouldn’t worry about this right now, the main problem is this thing over here. You’re money would be spent best fixing that first, and if you have resources leftover fix the secondary thing.” That’s what you want from a professional and you just built respect right there. When they get to the point of fixing the secondary issue, they’ll come back to you. I recently experienced this, I thought there was a serious issue with my car but it turned out to be a loose hose and they could have charged me whatever they wanted and I would have paid it but they didn’t charge me! We’re about to bring our other car in for brakes and guess where we’ll be going?
- 39:53 Ben: Following that example, sometimes you do have a major issue with your vehicle and they diagnose it. They tell you what the problem is and what it will cost to fix, but you can’t afford it. They definitely shouldn’t say, “What can you afford? We’ll do it for whatever you can afford.”
- 40:24 Sean: They might use duct tape at that rate.
- 40:27 Ben: If it’s the type of problem where fixing minor things would prolong the life of that issue, so you can get in a better financial place to fix that major thing, it might make sense for them to say, “If you can’t afford to get the major problem fixed, let’s focus on these smaller things that will allow your vehicle to last until you can save up the money to fix the major issue.” Those are worthwhile investments because they’re a part of helping you solve the bigger problem.
- 41:11 Sean: I have one exception for discounts: to reward loyalty. It’s a good idea to give your loyal customers a special rate to reward them. We’re doubling the price of the Community and we’re currently working on switching the site to a different system, which will be changing the billing cycles. Basically, there are going to be people in the middle of a billing cycle that will need to sign up again under this new system. Since we have this issue, I’ve decided to give every existing Community member a free month of membership.
- 42:19 That sounds really nice but it’s well over $10,000 nice. It’s significant but that’s how much I care about the experience of the people that are loyal to this brand. The loyal customers are the ones that get discounts. I don’t give free or $1.00 trials. I don’t care about the money, I care about the right people and the experience there.
I want to reward loyalty and the reason I can do that is because I don’t do it for everyone else.
- 44:05 Ben: If I’m already so invested in a brand that the brand owner sees me as a loyal customer and in turn offers more value, I’m hooked. I was already willing to indefinitely pay full price and on top of that, you’re giving me discounts because you see me as a loyal customer. Why would I go anywhere else for what I can get from you?
- 44:37 Sean: A lot of people don’t do this kind of thing because they care about the customer, they’re trying to use gimmicky systems to get more revenue—discounting, points reward systems, sales, creating urgency through limiting availability, etc. It’s a convoluted mess. You run sales but you have rewards programs with points but you can’t get discounts on sale items—you have to start making up arbitrary rules because it’s so convoluted. Compare that mall experience to Apple, where they give you the price of the phone without apologizing and you can buy it when you’re ready.
- 45:35 Ben: When they do lower the price, it’s because they’ve come out with a newer, better model.
- 45:43 Sean: That’s true, they’ll keep an older model available at a lower rate because the value of technology goes down so quickly. That’s there exception.
- 46:06 Ben: I can’t think of many instances where the kind of people we’re talking to have a product that loses value over time but an example of this is if you produce a course around a specific technology, like MailChimp.
- 46:49 Sean: I would replace your example with something like Photoshop because with MailChimp, it changes and once it changes that’s all you can use. With Photoshop, you can use older versions, they just become less and less relevant or valuable. It doesn’t have as much support, there are less tutorials, things aren’t built for older versions, etc. It starts fading away in value but you can still use Photoshop CS6 instead of Creative Cloud.
- 47:24 Ben: In that case, for a person who is continually creating new content around the latest version of Photoshop, would it make sense for them to discount older versions of a similar course?
- 47:42 Sean: I could see it going either way. If I ran Apple, I wouldn’t do discounts at all but I’m sure some board would strong-arm me into it. I like to start from a standpoint of values: do we discount stuff or do we not? Apple is a good example. They’ve made one exception and I’m sure it makes a lot of sense but I like to start from a standpoint of values. I say I don’t discount stuff because discounts are always a devaluation. Maybe Apple could construe that and technically say it’s not a discount anymore, the value has simply gone down.
- 48:41 Ben: Objectively, that’s true because the value of the older device is relative to the new device. I wonder if their new price is an accurate reflection of the actual value as it decreases over time. Maybe they are still selling the older items at full price, it’s just that the full price has had to go down necessarily
Invoicing Pro-Bono Work & Charitable Contributions
- 49:16 I like this question that we got from Stephanie Lewis, “How does one invoice for free?”
- 49:38 Sean: At least in the United States, when you do a pro-bono project for someone, you actually still have to charge tax. The recipient still pays tax on the full amount of the project, which isn’t fun but what I like about it is it underscores that they’re getting a full-value thing. When you invoice them, you would essentially tell them the price and add a line item called “pro-bono discount,” to zero out the price, but as far as tax goes, you do still have to charge it. You can look up how to structure your invoice but definitely charge sales tax in the US.
- 50:48 The person receiving the project would be the one to pay tax, not the person providing the service. It would be like paying for someone to wash your windows or clean your carpet. You’re paying for the service and you pay the sales tax, so the client pays the sales tax on the pro-bono project.
- 51:07 Ben: The second part of that question is, “What can be deducted as a charitable contribution?” I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know much about taxes, but I remember someone telling me is that you cannot write off the amount you would have charged them as a charitable contribution. A charitable contribution has to be actual funds given.
- 51:45 Sean: That’s my understanding too. It has to be a monetary donation and if it was giving someone money personally, it has to be over $10,000 or $15,000 for it to be something you need to worry about.
- 52:31 Ben: Do your research and learn about how those taxes actually work. I’ve always aired on the side of caution and haven’t actually listed a pro-bono project as a charitable contribution. If you’re considering doing it, research it first so you don’t get yourself into trouble.