The Best Free Gifts for Business Colleagues


Whether you want to celebrate the holidays or just start the new year on the right foot, many of us will feel like saying “thank you“ to a colleague who’s been especially supportive of us in our careers. Before you sign off on having a gift card (or yet another personalized coffee mug) sent to the door of a great associate, check out these meaningful, effective, and FREE gifts!

LinkedIn Recommendation

Nothing communicates “I believe in you” like having the entire Internet hear you say it! Giving an unsolicited recommendation on a social site like LinkedIn is always almost appreciated, if you do it thoughtfully. The more details to the positives that your colleague possesses, the better (although it is recommended that you avoid rambling in your feedback). For additional tips for making sure your recommendation has value, check out “How to Write an Excellent LinkedIn Recommendation.”

What if your colleague isn’t on LinkedIn yet? Maybe you should nudge him to join. Otherwise, a handy traditional letter of recommendation is a nice gift to tuck away into his file for later down the career path.

Affiliate Sales

If you’re like me, you probably shop Amazon,, or mega-retailers Target and Walmart’s online sites regularly. By timing your purchase to come directly after a visit to a colleague’s blog or online site, via one of their affiliate links, you are guaranteeing that 4-15% of your purchase will benefit your colleague directly. Sure, you could do the same thing with a site like ShopAtHome or Ebates and see that extra cash go into your own pocket. But while we are in the giving mood, doesn’t this seem painless (and almost “free”?) For more information on how to spot affiliate links and what makes them work, see “How Do Bloggers Make Money?”


I keep my best business contacts, client names, and job leads pretty close to the vest. For the right person (and under the right circumstances), however, I share a good one now and again. Giving out the number of an editor who’s looking to expand her freelance pool or the contact email for a notable media rep is something I’ve done as a gift to colleagues I really care about and want to see succeed. If it’s been awhile since you’ve given back to your business friends and an occasion is coming up, this can be a well-appreciated and personal token of gratitude.


Now before you get the idea that I advocate getting puffed up and approaching any of your colleagues with an offer to mentor them, understand that we all have unique gifts and abilities that we can share with others. Doing so discretely, with a humble approach and a genuine desire to see a colleague succeed, however, takes discipline and the right heart. If you have a proven method of gaining new business, designing a website, or just perfecting a common business task in your shared niche, you may be able to give of your knowledge and experience through an informal mentorship. Don’t reveal that this is what you are doing, however, or you may compromise the pride of your colleague (and the value of your gift.) Likewise, if at any time you feel like your advice is unwelcome, be willing to step aside and resume your original relationship. (Maybe a few helpful Twitter responses or some blog comments will do the job nicely.)


If you have some space in your blogroll, Twitter profile, or company mailing that you’d be willing to give up for free, this might make a nice gift for close colleagues. Before you assume that they want to be linked back in your next edition of the corporate newsletter, however, it might be wise to ask. While I can’t think of any time when free promotion is unwelcome, it’s a great opportunity to ask if they have a preference for keyword links and to verify the spelling of their name or URL address.

There are many smart business people who perform these acts of professional kindness regularly and never think of them as official “gifts.” For most of us, however, there just isn’t enough time in the day to do this enough, and these special kindnesses make a nice way to give an official “thank you” for the continued business friendship.

What gifts are you giving your colleagues this year?

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