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How to handle clients who want your skills for free

I know lots of business owners who have amazing skills who just don't charge for their expertise.

Do you recognize this in yourself?

Yes, I understand the problem. As a business owner you always balance between the two extremes:

1. Giving all you can for free - and soon you'll be out of business.
2. You don't even say hello to a customer without charging for it (that's cheap).

I think the reason why many choose option 1 is that you as a service minded business owner are so enthusiastic about your work, that you can't but help others and simply forget the idea of ​​getting paid. Option 2 is as bad as it only seems inhospitable and greedy. Old customers have to get something for free and sometimes you have to prove yourself to new customers by giving away samples of what you can offer people.

Balance is what is needed, but because most people and businesses are careful with their money, they often begin with trying to get all they can for free instead. They do this, for example, by calling to ask some questions and you (who are so keen to show what you can do) plunges into the conversation that you are both passionate about and eager to prove to the customer that you are the best in the industry at your job. Soon, the customer has received answers to all their questions and you think he/she will call again, but forget it. The ”customer” has already been told all he/she needed to know and you have spent half an hour in vain helping someone out for nothing.

The solution requires a little courage
Here's what I usually say when I feel that a potential customer will continue to ask questions and shows no signs of wanting to hire me:
- “These are clever questions you ask, but I feel that we are not getting any closer toward hiring me to get the job done, and right now I am giving away my time for free. May I suggest that we make an agreement on how to proceed? If we do that, you can get all the help you need without me having to think about if you are going to hire me or not.”

Yes, it is straightforward, but it's also exactly what it takes for you to get something out of the conversation. The customers who are serious will agree with you and start discussing the details of your contract. But, more importantly - you get rid of those who never even thought of doing anything other than trying to steal your knowledge without paying for it. If someone says:
- “Of course we should think about the future, but I have just a few questions ... “ - you can probably be certain that you don't have a serious customer in front of you.

I usually say something like this:
- “I understand and the questions you mention are exactly what we will take care of when you have hired me for the job. I have given you an idea of ​​how I work and answered many of your questions, and right now it feels like we need to take a step closer to make it work for both parties. And, of course, I will tell you more about how my process works and the results we can achieve, but I can't work for free. I'm sure I don't have to explain why”.

Test this solution now and you'll see the magical difference!

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

230 000 prescribes to his free newsletter "The 5 minute marketer"
Every week some 230,000 prescribers gets his free newsletter about 5 minute marketing.

"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
You run a small business and you want to get ahead of the competition, but how can you give resources to marketing when you're short on time and the budget is tight? The solution is here! The 5-Minute Marketer is packed with 395 tried-and-tested ways to market your business in 5 minutes or less.