You probably get calls every week, pleading for free help.
“Can I pick your brain?”
“I just made a Facebook page for my business. I’d love to get your feedback!”
“Let me buy you coffee and ask you about this.”
|Free coffee or lunch isn’t the same as a business.
Photo by Jon Swanson.
With all these requests for free help, you may get a free lunch, but how are you supposed to pay the mortgage?
We all have to learn where to draw the line between free and paid. And the less well known you are, the more you have to take care of business first.
Here are four things I’ve learned about free help, and paid work.
1. Having an hourly rate is not the same as building a business.
Multiple lines of income help you build a broad-based business than can survive the ups and downs. That means more than one product, or at least more than one way to buy from you.
2. Remember that we are all freebies at some point.
Carl Natale said it this way, “We surf the Internet for advice on blogging platforms. We cruise the Big Boxes to figure out how to install flooring ourselves. We walk into stores trying to figure out which camera to buy. We call attorneys to figure out how to handle our wills. How do we like to be treated at this stage?”
3. Your attitude matters.
Potential customers will talk. What you give away, and how you handle pick-your-brain requests, will get around. When you address these with confidence, you’ll come out the winner.
4. Sometimes new customers arrive in disguise.
“Can I get your feedback on our new Facebook page?” might be a request for free advice, or it might be a new customer. How you handle it can make the difference. Give a business-minded answer. “Sure, I have time right now for a 30 minute consultation, and I charge $125 per hour for this kind of work.”
Free and paid issues never go away, no matter how long you’re in business. So start now to handle them as professionally as you can. If you want to learn more, Sheila Scarborough and I put together this toolkit: How to Draw the Line Between Free and Paid. It’s not free.
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Jason Hull says
I find that I need to give away free information to build credibility. Passing the CFP(R) exam and holding a Series 65 license help, but it still doesn’t differentiate me from the other 65,000 people who hold these designations. So, I make the distinction in two ways:
1) There’s a free initial session to establish a relationship. After all, I want to make sure that I’m right for the potential client, and the client certainly will want to suss me out.
2) On the website, I’ll tell you what to do, but not necessarily how to do it. If someone wants specific advice on how to apply something to their situation, then that’s where I’ll charge.
I really like your approach on #4. It also eliminates the budget/ability to pay discussion that so many people put off and then wind up being in a position where they’ve worked to land someone who actually can’t afford to buy.
Becky McCray says
Thanks, Jason. I definitely recommend the plan of give away the “what to do” and charge for the “how to do.” When people ask, “how would I do that?” you know it’s time to talk about prices.
Jerry Hingle says
Yes, good advice. You have to show your expertise in order to establish authority, but you don’t want to give away the “secret sauce,” so to speak.