Many service business owners these days are “giving away” their business services ? and then wonder why people aren’t hiring them in droves. In the name of “marketing,” business owners are providing way too much information for free. Some shifts in thinking are necessary if these business owners expect to be in business years from now. Even trained coaches, I believe, do too much pro-bono work. Why? They say that they need to practice, but the bottom line, IMO, is that they don’t value their gifts.
What can you say to people who 1) ask outright for free information, or 2) want to “pick your brain” or 3) just start talking to you about something, and you realize that they’re trying to “borrow” your valuable resources without becoming a client? Here are some ideas. Try them on to see which ones “fit” you best.
23 things to say when someone asks you – a service business owner ? for free information!
My charge for an initial consultation is “x.” If we turn out to be a good match, and you hire me, I’ll apply 1/2 of “x” towards your commitment.
I’m happy to give you 5 minutes or less of free time, however, most issues are more quickly & effectively resolved in an undisturbed session(s). May we schedule a meeting so I can give you my undivided attention?
If someone is very persistent, whip out a stopwatch & say “For $2 a minute I’d be happy to go into this now. May I start the clock & do you prefer to pay with cash or check?”
What I can do is refer you to a free resource on “_______.”
I do work with two pro-bono clients, who are in desperate need financially. I’ll take your card and add you to the waiting list.
Yes, I do work with clients on “name the issue.” Would you like to set up a consultation?
That will cost “x” per hour.
There’s a lot I can do for you that’s similar to the work I did for “xyz” client. Would you like to get together and build a marketing plan? (And then charge for those services.)
Well, I’d love to suggest something; however, my fees are “xxx” per hour.
Are you looking to hire me?
Are you looking to hire _____? Well, I’d love to talk to you about that; my fees are “x” per hour.”
You may call me for a 15-minute talk, very focused, on that issue.
“Well, the answer to that question depends” and then spend a few minutes explaining some of the options and considerations. For example, I may explain that the best way to identify the “solution” is to work backward from the desired end result and process. That provides a natural lead-in to: “If I were to work with you on this project, here’s how we would do it…”
Sorry, I can’t answer that unless you pay my fee (or hire me).
A complete answer to your question is going to take more than 15 minutes over the phone. Would you like me to send you a proposal on this?
I have really enjoyed talking with you and would like to help more. May I send you one of my brochures and a rate card?
Do you have a time line and/or budget in mind for solving this problem?
Have you looked at cost estimates from others who would like to help you solve this problem or complete this project?
It’s not a good time for me to begin a session right this minute. Would you like to briefly discuss session times and fees?
Are you seeking generic free information on “the topic” or to work with a “your profession here” to address your specific situation? [If I have a free resource, I’ll ask for their email address and send it to them.]
I provide a general 3-4 sentence overview of how I would address their concern with them. Then I say that I’ve found that the sorting of the information available and subsequent application of that information is so specific to each individual that I always recommend hiring a “your profession here” for getting that one project completed.
Well what I can offer you on that subject is an ebook (CD, audio, etc) called ________. I?ll email you the link.
Refer them to these “free” or “almost free” resources:
The library has books/tapes/audios/CD/reference librarians.
To an outsider, your local SBA and SCORE Offices “look” free. They’re really not “free” either. Their classes “cost $” and their advice is paid for by all of us as part of our taxes.
Find a professional who needs your services and see about some sort of in-kind exchange or barter. Again, this isn’t totally free, as you do need to report it on your taxes, but in most cases, there isn’t any money exchanged.
Join lots of ezines by experts in the area you’re looking to learn about, but do it quickly while they are still free. And know that the ‘best of the best’ contain ads and affiliate programs, too.
Marcia Yudkin, Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Author says this in Marketing Minute:
“You can head off a good portion of that from paying clients by settingdown in writing what your fees cover and do not cover. While you don’t want to come off as some sort of dictator with a stringent rulebook, it helps to set forth guidelines for a productive relationship. For folks who are not yet clients, feel free to copy what I do. If I can answer a question in five minutes or less, I generally just go ahead and do so. If a question is more complicated than that, I reply, ‘I couldn’t do justice to your question without a consultation.
My consulting rates are …’ Prevent hassles by making expectations explicit!”
Remember, as a service business owner, part of what you “offer” clients and what they value from you is your knowledge and expertise. It’s as much a part of your “services” as any tangible materials you produce. So make sure to treat it as such, and get compensated fairly! When you value your services, others will, too.
With special thanks to members of the CoachU Alumni Helping Alumni List http://www.coachu.com/, Digital Eve Seattle and Freelance Seattle, www.freelance-seattle.net discussion lists for sending me their questions and observations, which contributed greatly to this article.