Why I Don’t Do Things For Free And You Shouldn’t Either

03/09/2017 02:58 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2017

 

If you listened to my podcast or have been following my social media accounts this week then you know I’ve been talking a lot this week about the importance and value of investing in yourself. Whether you’re climbing the corporate ladder or are an entrepreneur the more you invest in yourself, your skills, and your knowledge base the more marketable you make yourself.

If you work in corporate America and are working your way up to success then you are already aware that at the very least you need some sort of college degree just to get your foot in the door. If you want to be an executive or lead an organization then you definitely have to invest in a post graduate degree and you have to have years of experience under your belt. No matter which way you look at it, education is the key to that corporate gateway which is why post-secondary education is such big business.

I, for one, have spent tens of thousands of dollars to work at a corporation that neither motivates me or speaks to the things I am most passionate about. To date, I have amassed almost $90,000 dollars in student loan debt to work at a job that is not aligned with my dreams and passions. Yet and still, when I was unclear about my future and the direction I wanted my life to take, I invested in my education. Why? Because even though at the time I did not know what my purpose in life was I knew I wanted a “good” job

Fast forward some years later, I am now in my late 30s and I am very clear about what my future looks like. I am no longer wasting time or money on things that are not directly aligned with my dreams and passions. I live in my purpose every single day and I’m very aware of the things I am investing in. I am very intentional on what I spend my money on and am now investing in workshops, residencies, classes, books, and conferences that will not only increase my knowledge base and improve my skills, but also allow me to network with individuals doing the same things. Putting myself in the same room with those who are doing what I’m doing or are interested in hiring people with my skills and knowledge, is key to growing my business and it should be what you’re doing too.

Many entrepreneurs, small business owners, and freelancers/consultants don’t invest in themselves as much as they should. We all have our reasons as to why we don’t. Sometimes we have competing priorities (I talk about that also in my podcast) that won’t allow us to invest in ourselves, and I know when you’re first starting out and haven’t made a profit from your business it may hinder your ability to invest in yourself.

However, never allow not having something stop you from getting what you know you need. There are many creative and inexpensive ways that you can invest in yourself (listen to my podcast here for inexpensive self-investment options). When you invest in yourself, especially if you’re a freelancer/consultant like myself, you’re not only gaining knowledge you’re also setting the value of your services. Not only are you now more marketable, but you also show potential clients/customers why they should purchase your services versus that person doing the same thing who may not have the same level of expertise.

Far too many people out here are either giving away their services for free or undervaluing themselves. Don’t short change yourself because you think people aren’t willing to pay. They are and they will if they see that you’re worth it. I very rarely do things for free because I know what I bring as far as expertise, years of experience, and knowledge. I am constantly investing in myself so that I can give my customers the absolute best. Additionally, time is money. So if I’m taking time from my busy schedule that could be better spent with my family, or on another activity that is valuable to me, I expect to be paid.

Don’t get me wrong, there are occasions where I’ll donate my time if I truly believe the project or event’s purpose is community based and is aligned with my own personal commitment of giving back, but that’s the exception, not the rule. The thing about charging for your services is that people will respect your time more if they have to pay for it. They won’t waste your time if they’ve had to dig in their pockets. Remember that. People don’t respect free work that’s why you have to charge them. In the infamous words of Birdman, “Make ’em put some respek on your name”.

The point I’m trying to make is if you are in business for yourself then you have to start acting like it. Nothing of real value is free and that includes your time, expertise, and knowledge. Below are some tips to make sure you are getting paid and not getting played!

Have a services/product price list.

Be prepared to show potential clients/customers your price list as soon as they inquire about your services. Be transparent and include all fees so that your potential client/customer isn’t surprised later on in the transaction process. If you don’t have a price list, create one. NOW! Let potential customers know exactly what they’re paying for (show them your credentials if you have to). Your price should consider not only your time, but also everything you’ve invested into making you the right person for the job.

Collect deposits.

Start charging deposits in order to secure the date and time. This one is so important because if you block out a date for someone and they end up canceling the event or deciding they don’t want to hire you, you now have potentially lost income for any other events you could have booked that day and didn’t. The non-refundable deposit at least offsets some of the potential income that has been lost.

Always remain professional.

Your reputation is what’s going to make or break your brand and how you present yourself is crucial to creating a great business relationship with your customers. Some things to consider that will add value to your business is:

  • · Having clients sign a contract that clearly outlines the services they are paying for. This ensures that there is no miscommunication by either party.
  • · Always do what you say you’re going to do. Be a person who stands by their word.
  • · Establish a cancellation/refund policy and inform the customer (even if it’s a no refund policy) let the customer know what they’re getting themselves into.

Navigating the world of entrepreneurship can be tricky and overwhelming, but if you’re well prepared it doesn’t have to be. As long as you stay committed to your mission and your vision, know what you bring to the table, and don’t undervalue yourself you will always come out on top.

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