I have long been a proponent of sharing everything with everyone. I’m a believer in the community over competition hashtag that I use a lot on Instagram. I don’t generally sell my stuff but pass it on to someone else when I’m not using it. It’s a well known fact in my circles that you want to be hanging around when I get in one of my purge, clean and organizing phases because there’s a good chance you’re going to inherit some cool stuff you’ve had your eye on. I once pretty much gave a friend my old car when I bought a truck. Pay it forward, Baby.
So when I say I’m not providing free services again to anyone, particularly to people I know, that’s a mouthful for me. . . . And it hurts a little bit, too.
But it’s one of those things in business that just starts to make sense after awhile. Because, if you’re running a business, you need to get paid to continue to grow your business, while simultaneously taking care of your family and making sure you can put food on the table. Particularly when you’re a single parent.
So when you’re running around giving it away for free to friends and family members, and anyone else that asks, you’re pretty much limiting your growth and income. Which is a major way to shoot yourself in the foot completely.
The main reason I’ve taken the “no free services” attitude in recent weeks however, is that I’ve noticed that people who get your business services for free don’t actually appreciate and make use of them.
Which really fucking sucks.
And it becomes a total waste of your time and talent to keep on giving your services away when you have paying clients to work with. Even if you’re just starting out and you have few or no paying clients yet, I’m going to urge you to not work for free or allow others to “pick your brain” without paying for the service.
How does this even happen anyways? It largely starts like this:
“Can I pick your brain?”
Your former colleagues or family members, who once rolled their eyes at your business plan and quitting your day job, suddenly sit up and take notice that you went to Europe and Africa for two months while they slogged it out in their cubicles. The same people realize that maybe you can make a living at this online business and blogging thing and want to know how to do it. So they reach out and ask to “pick your brain”.
So you go and take a morning or afternoon to sit with them and explain what you do and how you earn money. Sometimes you get a free coffee for that.
Or wine. I might continue working for free wine. But I usually find that long after the wine is gone, I’m still working. Except now I’m working for free and I’m hungover.
Maybe I’ll just buy my own damn wine.
But most of the time you split the check but it doesn’t matter because you know that being of service is a value you hold and you genuinely want to help people. And you listen as they talk about maybe doing the same thing but they’re not sure where to start or even what they want to do.
If you’re me, or like most people in any kind of a helping profession, you’ll find yourself offering to help. Or being asked to help and agreeing to do it. And your friend is excited and enthusiastic and that’s kind of a rush.
So you send all of your paid materials to them to help them get started. You send your workbooks, the course material, the articles you’ve written, the freebies you cultivated to encourage your clients and readers. Pretty much anything you can think of that will help them.
And if building websites is your thing and you love it, you find yourself setting up and building a site for them. No cost because you know, I’ve got this giant business account with hosting companies anyway so I can include make their site without having to charge them much, if anything at all.
It doesn’t matter if web designs isn’t your thing. Insert your special talent here and then consider how it feels when you’ve provided hours of it and your friend doesn’t seem to care. Yuk, right?
Dumb, dumb, dumb.
People don’t feel taken the first few times. It usually takes months or years of the freebies to start draining you. Because there’s a pattern that starts to become apparent. And it really, really sucks when you see it.
The people you gave your resources, time, and energy to for free don’t follow through. Or they do and they abandon their project the minute they hit the first bump.
That doesn’t happen with paid clients.
You know why? They paid for something and they value that something. They know that handing over cash for a tool, book, course, workshop, or website design, is a big deal and they’ve thought it through and are willing to work to invest in themselves and their businesses.
In our culture, paying for something gives it value. How many times have you kept something in your closet even though it doesn’t fit or has a stain on it because you paid good money for it?
(Sounds like most of my wardrobe actually. Look out friends, I’m gonna be purging again.)
We get stuck pushing through with things we don’t love. Like that dress that didn’t quite fit but was expensive. We hang on to that dress even though it makes us look like an over-stuffed sausage when we wear it. So we don’t wear it but we hang it back up, telling ourselves that it might fit when we lose 10 pounds. Or buys some Spankx. Because it cost good money. Sound familiar?
In the past few years, I’ve spent countless hours, days, and weeks of my life, helping friends build websites or building for them and watching those friends not finish. Or even launch.
Maybe it bothers me more than it should because those websites (that I didn’t charge them for) wind up just sitting in my portfolio as a big fat fail. Some I’ve assumed custody of because their owners didn’t want them or they didn’t even bother to get them off the ground.
Or worse, your friend throws in the towel at the first bump in the road.
Let’s face it. There are lots of bumps in the road of building an online business or blog. Any kind of business, actually. But when you’ve committed to the journey, you ride through those bumps and keep going.
I’m fairly sure that if any of the folks that got my services and website design for even half of what I normally charge, they’d be trying to push through and learn their business. If only to get a return on their investment. But because they got it for free, they don’t value it and don’t follow through.
[As an aside, if anyone wants to build a music festival website, I can totally hook you up. I also have a counselling practice website, a mom blogging resources site, and blog about midlife fashion and style, and another that refers to hormones and hot flashes. There’s also a short lived furniture drop shipping business, along with a few others that are just hanging around collecting invisible web dust.]
As you grow your business, your friends, family and colleagues are going to sit up and take notice. The ones that rolled their eyes, asked you to collect their packages during the day because you know, you’re home anyways doing that blog thing, are going to realize that you’re actually doing it. You’re building a life and a business that you love and that has changed your life.
Regardless of what your business or blog is about, whatever product or services you sell, please, please, please, heed my advice. Charge for your genius and don’t build things for other people that they’re perfectly capable of doing for themselves. Unless you’re getting paid for it.
If they want to know how you did it, invite them to your fan pages, to your social media accounts, to your workshops, and to your courses if you make that sort of thing. Invite them to read and subscribe to your blog but for the love of all things holy, never give it away for free.
And don’t forget to create an amazing “About” page so they can read all about how you actually did it. That’s the freebie you can provide. A link to your site. If you, like me, really do want to provide a service for friends and family, you can offer a discount. Or upgrade them for free. But collect your payment, honey, because you ain’t giving it away for free.
I think this happens more to creative types because I don’t recall any dentist I know being asked to provide a free cavity fill or crown. Same goes for doctors or lawyers. So treat yourself like the professional you are and create a dialogue that allows you either a graceful exit or to be billing what you’re worth.
Personally, I’ll be creating a one time consulting service called “Pick my Brain” one of these days. I’d like to claim credit for that but when I researched this article, I came across this idea in the comment section of Marie Forleo’s site. Brilliant idea, Darlene!
On that note, Marie Forleo says it best in one of her brilliant Marie TV videos so I’m turning this one over to her to clarify how to gracefully handle this sticky mess. Because she’s the bomb. And I see her black dress fits just fine.
Has this ever happened to you? How do you handle it?