Sharing Your Knowledge or Free Consulting?

Working for Free or Earning Trust?

There is a lot of talk in the online marketing world about “remarkable content” and the spirit of giving you must have to be successful in drawing in new customers. Share your knowledge with them and you can build a virtual relationship that will hopefully lead to a new client or business relationship. There is a lot of preaching about taking down the barriers and becoming the trusted source – the “go-to guy” and therefore the first one hired when a need for your services arise.

But how much is too much? At what point are you basically working for free – consulting as a specialist without getting paid? And this doesn’t just happen online with prospects, it happens in real life with both potential clients and existing customers; you’re hired for one project but a trickle of small requests from an important client builds into a time vaccuum that in the end is making you less productive on the revenue producing end of your business.

What to do? Establish a list of rules for what is and what isn’t “free.” It is one thing to advise your customer or help problem solve if the problem solving is a quick 2 paragraph email or five minute conversation. When it becomes a stream of emails, an hour long meeting, or work you must do on your own that requires more than a few minutes of your time, you need to quickly and politely STOP the freebie train. As soon as a client makes a request that you know is time consuming and really an ‘additional project,’ you must immediately and without hesitation say something like “I would be thrilled to help you with that – let me get a proposal together and email it to you.” Then do just that – figure out the time you predict this project will take and get a proper proposal together. If it is an opened ended project, the proposal should include an hourly rate.

Once you have your list of what you will and will not do, your Freebie Rules, stick to them. Most of the free consultation is your fault – it’s a behavior you have fallen into, and then trained your clients to expect. In the beginning it may seem awkward or difficult, but with discipline it will become second nature and your company will become a lot more profitable. Time is your most precious commodity, so make sure you’re not giving it away for nothing.

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