Time and time again I’ve worked with gifted and passionate business owners who are so determined to get new clients in the door that they wind up working for a fraction of their true value! In fact, some of them work for nothing in order to get a shot at future business.
I also tell people, time and time again, that if you are looking to THRIVE in your day to day life rather than merely survive the day, you have to understand that YOU have what it takes to get there! Unfortunately, too many people in search of new business sacrifice who they are for a “chance” at new business and additional income.
So many people are willing to work for less than what they’re worth rather than simply charging what their worth and taking those clients that agree! I must admit, when I started my first business I did the exact same thing and I can tell you from experience that it’s a bad idea!
Now, does this mean I’m advocating that you never, ever offer a discount or a lower rate to earn some business? Of course not! There are times when it’s the smartest thing you can do! What I am talking about are those situations when you try to convince yourself to work on a project where you’re losing money or you may even be doing something for FREE in the hopes that you’ll get new business down the road. These are the things that are major mistakes!
I recently explained to a client my 3 reasons why working for free is never the way to go and I wanted to share those with you today.
I think back to the days when I saved up for my first car. Sure it was my mum’s old charade but I saved for that baby and let me tell you…I treasured that little red machine because I worked so hard to get it. I also remember my friend who turned up to school the day of his 17th birthday with a brand new car that was a gift from his parents. Within 2 months, his car was covered in dings and scratches because he ran it into the ground yet mine was looking sharp and purring like a kitten! Why? Simple…perceived value. People recognise the value of an item (or a business relationship) when there is some skin in the game. If you want clients to value YOU, then you must learn to value YOURSELF and never work for free!
Calling All NFP (not-for-profits)
I love a great charity but only once there is a successful business there to back it up. At the end of the day, even a non-for-profit has to make a profit or the doors don’t stay open! Make no mistake…you have to think of yourself the same way.
You’re not a charity and you have to make sure the lights stay on and that you can continue to thrive. How many “free” clients/customers can you take on before you have to close the doors? I’m guessing that you can’t handle too many of those freebies before you start questioning why you ever started your business in the first place!
Good clients/customers will understand that for a good product or service they should have to pay for it. Never sell yourself short. You’re not a charity, so don’t act like one!
It’s Not Fair
Think of all the people who are willing to pay for your services. Add to that the people that ARE paying for your services. Now ask yourself if it’s really fair to all of those paying customers when you’re giving services away to someone else for nothing?
Also, be sure to think about things long term. Once you give someone a steep discount or provide a free service, how easy will it be to get that client to start paying? Moreso, what makes you think you’ll ever get them back to your “standard” pricing now that they know you can work for steep discounts? It’s a dangerous, slippery slope once you begin to provide your services for less than what they’re worth!
After going through this with my client he said “Right, it makes total sense. But, because I blog quite a bit I get people asking for help all the time on small things so I feel like I have to write back and help them”. This is certainly a fair statement. People read our work, send us an email telling us how much our article helped them and then ask us a question. We feel obligated to answer their question because they were kind enough to take time from their day to send us a message. I totally get it! But there is a solution that might help you…
Set up an ‘Ask (Your Name)’ on your website contact page. This is a form that people can fill in with their question to you. On a scheduled basis, perhaps every week, two weeks or once per month you can answer the most commonly asked question in a pubic forum (your blog). If people want you to answer your question in private it’s time to talk to them about becoming a paying client for your “consulting” work. This option means you’re providing content to your audience and keeping your bank manager happy!
Have you worked for free before? Have you managed to fight your way out of working for free? Or are you still stuck in that rut? I would love to hear from you by commenting below.
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