As an entertainer, I am frequently solicited to do free performances for charities. Often, they tell me about all the free publicity I will receive and how it will benefit me.
Unfortunately, the "FREE PUBLICITY" most often received is that I do "FREE" shows. Unless you have a desire to donate your time to a specific group, do not do free shows for free.
However, there is an appropriate way to donate your services. If you have the time and desire to do a show for a group when they ask, follow these certain steps.
First, make it clear that you are willing to sponsor their event. Explain your usual fees for what you are being asked to do. You will expect a receipt for a donation of that amount.
Second, find out what they offer to sponsors at your financial giving level. If you offer a $500 show, ask what perks other event sponsors at the $500 level receive. If they get a quarter page ad in a program, you expect the same. If they are listed as "Silver Sponsors" or whatever on event marketing materials, you expect the same.
If Pepsi sponsors an event, you will see large Pepsi banners at the event. You should be able to post your banner or poster at the event. You become a sponsor at your giving level and should be treated as same.
By doing this, you are no longer just giving away valuable service. You are no longer cheapening your craft. You are positioning yourself to get maximum exposure and goodwill from the event.
Additionally, you can make some income by offering show souvenirs for sale after your show. Magic kits, signed photos and more add to people's enjoyment of the event and can help pay for your expenses and then some.
As a balloon twister, I also make "free" shows more profitable by busking. Working for tips allows me to offer my services while still making a day's pay.
Always have plenty of your own marketing materials on hand. During your performance and as you talk to people, inform people of what you do. If you do picnics, bring it up. There may be a corporate person there looking for entertainment for a company picnic. Collect other people's business cards, too. Add these to your mailing list. Business people who have seen you perform are great leads for direct mailing.
Free shows should mean free to the event, but profitable to you. Follow these steps and you can build your business the right way.