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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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.