Freebie Seekers Want To Pick Your Brain? Turn Them Into Clients and Referrers – or Turn Them Far, Far Away!!
by Maria Marsala
Summary: It’s may be hard to believe, but every person who wants to pick your brain doesn’t value your services. But it’s up to you to value yourself and create boundaries; then others will start seeing value your services, too. None of us went into business to be non profit although business owners do contribute and donate to nonprofits — after we’re paid what we’re worth!!
Service professionals and business owners give away their business services – and then wonder why people aren’t hiring them in droves. In the name of “giving” or “marketing,” business owners are providing way too much information for free. Some shifts in thinking are necessary if these business owners expect to be in business years from now. As a newly trained coach in 1998, I was actually taught to do pro-bono work. Why? They said that we needed to practice. But the bottom line, in my opinion, is that we already ahve the gift, knowledge and experience to succeed in what we’re doing — even if you’re new to business!
Shifts in thinking and action need to occur. One place to start is by moving yourself from an employee mentality, where you “give information for free because your company is paying you and it’s just what you do in your job” to thinking like a business owner who values their gifts and expects to be paid for those gifts.
There’s a definite shift in the right direction, thank goodness, taking place on the Internet. I think it started after the dot.com bust settled down. The first site that went from free to paid that I remember was Consumer Reports, a publication I’ve been reading since 1973! I thought, “how could they” and then realized what a novel idea – business web sites actually making money using a subscription based membership site.
Membership sites, for those who – like me – are “informational entrepreneurs,” are on the rise, too. In 2001, Infopreneur Terry Dean’s site went from “free” to a “paid” membership site, which brought him a minimum of 5k per month. His income is much more than that now, but you get the idea. Just like a toddler, we have learned from our mistakes and are taking the Internet from a place primarily for freebie seekers to a valuable sophisticated, professional marketplace.
The final shift is to always act like a “real” business owner and stop giving away the bank. Being paid for your service is about honoring your business, your talents, your precious time, your gifts and the skills you’ve developed. Setting boundaries on just how much free information, or free services, you’ll give away is not easy to do. Just like pricing services!
However, no one expects to go into a shoe store, ask for free shoes, and walk out of the store! If you don’t value your services, no one else will. So if you’re holding back information that you rightfully should be paid for, and you believe that you’re hoarding or being stingy, please look to see if that belief is based in reality.
VERY big shifts indeed.
Tiffany Bond, principal at BrandBond in Seattle, said it best: “People seldom value an opinion they didn’t pay for – but they will sure assess blame to it!” So if you’re going to take the blame, at the very least, get paid highly for it!
Yes, providing some limited free advice may be a good marketing strategy. It may assist someone to start to trust you. On the other hand, it might have the opposite effect, and cause people to wonder why they should pay you when they’re getting the information for free. So, just be careful that you’re not giving away the shop. As I tell my clients, “learn from my mistakes (and I did give away the shop until I got smart!), and go and make better mistakes!”
And what can you say to people who 1) ask outright for free information, or 2) just start talking to you about something, and you realize that they’re trying to “borrow” your valuable resources without becoming a client? Here are some ideas. Try them on to see what “fits” you best.
Setting boundaries on just how much free information, or free services, you’ll give away is not easy to do. And what can you say to people who 1) ask outright for free information, or 2) just start talking to you about something and you realize that they’re trying to “borrow” your valuable resources without becoming a client? Here are some ideas. Try them on to see what “fits” you best.
- My charge for an initial consultation is “x”. If we turn out to be a good match, and you hire me, I’ll apply 1/2 of “x” towards your commitment.
- Yes, I do work with clients on “name the issue.” Would you like to set up a consultation?
- That will cost “x” per hour.
- There’s a lot I can do for you that’s similar to the work I did for “xyz” client. Would you like to get together and build a marketing plan? (And then charge for those services.)
- Are you looking to hire _____? Well, I’d love to talk to you about that; my fees are “x” per hour.
- “Well, the answer to that question depends…” and then spend a few minutes explaining some of the options and considerations. For example, I may explain that the best way to identify the “solution” is to work backward from the desired end result and process. That provides a natural lead-in to: “If I were to work with you on this project, here’s how we would do it…”
- A complete answer to your question is going to take more than 15 minutes over the phone. Would you like me to send you a proposal on this?
- I have really enjoyed talking with you and would like to help more. May I send you one of my brochures and a rate card?
- Do you have a time line and/or budget in mind for solving this problem?
- It’s not a good time for me to discuss this right this minute. Would you like to briefly discuss project guidelines and fees?
As a service business owner, part of what you “offer” clients and what they value from you is your knowledge and expertise. It’s as much a part of your “services” as any tangible materials you produce. So make sure to treat it as such, and get compensated fairly! When you value your services, others will, too.
Marcia Yudkin, Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Author says this in Marketing Minute: (http://www.yudkin.com/) « You can head off a good portion of that from paying clients by setting down in writing what your fees cover and do not cover. While you don’t want to come off as some sort of dictator with a stringent rule book, it helps to set forth guidelines for a productive relationship. For folks who are not yet clients, feel free to copy what I do. If I can answer a question in five minutes or less, I generally just go ahead and do so. If a question is more complicated than that, I reply, ‘I couldn’t do justice to your question without a consultation. My consulting rates are …’ Prevent hassles by making expectations explicit!»
Remember, as a service business owner, part of what you “offer” clients and what they value from you is your knowledge and expertise. It’s as much a part of your “services” as any tangible materials you produce. So make sure to treat it as such, and get compensated fairly! When you value your services, others will, too.
With special thanks to members of the CoachU Alumni Helping Alumni List http://www.coachu.com/, Digital Eve Seattle and Freelance Seattle,
www.freelance-seattle.net discussion lists for sending me their questions and observations, which contributed greatly to this article.
Enjoy this article? It’s part of a larger program about confidently setting and raising your rates. Learn more here
(c) 2001 Elevating Your Business. Maria Marsala is a business strategist, executive coach, speaker, and author of eight workbooks geared to help financial, investment, and insurance advisors owners grow their businesses faster. Her Stop Working with Jerks CD provides step-by-step tools — templates, samples, audios, spreadsheets and group coaching — that help attract and target great clients. Visit www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com to learn more.