Some of the best advice I have ever received as an independent consultant is in regards to giving away free services. It can be tempting to think that if you give away your service as an independent consultant, that you will attract more customers. That by giving away your service you are building your credibility, and you are sure to become a trusted consultant to the people you are giving free services to. The hope is that they will eventually pay you. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you are a small businessperson, chances are you have contemplated giving some of your time away for free. Many people will argue that by giving people something, they feel obligated to give you something in return.
This can work when you are selling a physical item, and can give them a relatively cheap free sample. However, when you are providing a service worth $100 an hour, anytime you provide the service for free you are devaluing your business.
Most Independent Consultants Spend Their Time Giving Free Advice
As an independent consultant, some of the best advice I have received is that most independent consultants waste their time by doing nothing but giving away free advice.
I was talking to someone who knew many independent consultants. She said that all of the independent consultants she knew spent all of their time giving away free advice.
I understand the temptation of giving away free advice. I will talk with people socially, and they will ask just how I do the internet marketing. I used to tell them, and now I just give a very vague answer as to what I actually do. I have worked very hard to learn what I know, and if someone wants to benefit from that, they can pay me.
I also get many requests for me to teach people how to use the internet (make websites, etc), or to do something online for them, for free. It would be a fallacy for me to accept these ‘offers’. People, who want something for free, are not committed to an idea. They are not going to make your portfolio look better, and they probably are not going to be much of a benefit for you in your business.
People who provide services for free are not professionals, they are volunteers. Which one are you?
By Giving Free Advice, You Are Taking the Value Out of your Service
A motivational speaker (Gary Barnes) told me this story once.
He said he had a professional relationship with someone, and they would send him clients. As a favor, he would do a 30-minute consultation for free.
After a while, his friend told him that she could not send him any more clients as long as he would do the consultations for free. Here he thought he was doing her a favor, and he was actually hurting her business.
The free consultations were devaluing Gary Barnes consultation and his friends business as well. It was making them both look cheap and unprofessional.