Several months ago, someone shared a valuable piece of wisdom with me. You tell people what you are worth and what to pay you. If you give away your time, idea, product or service for free, then you are telling others that these things are worth nothing and that you should be paid nothing.
If you are someone who is starting a new business or wanting to grow an existing business, you may want to offer your product or service for free to attract clients/customers. I offer a free 30-minute coaching session to potential clients. However, after this 30-minute session, I ask the potential client if they want to commit to working with me. If they agree, they must begin to pay for my service. You may feel that if you give away your time, product or service for free that what you give will eventually come back to you in abundance. I think that you should be strategic and selective about what you give away for free. You should indicate that this is a one-time event and that the next time they will have to pay.
If you do contract work and are eager to land a lucrative client/customer, you may offer to do some work for free assuming that the paid work will follow. Many organizations will ask you to do this so they can see what is available in the marketplace and who is the best person at the best price. If they can get what they require for free, even better. It’s like the old saying: why pay for the cow, when you can get the milk for free? Unfortunately, in these tough economic times, individuals in both the public and private sectors are fearful of losing their jobs and they want to make themselves look good in the eyes of their management. So if you are a consultant or entrepreneur and you offer your product or service for free or at a very low fee, they will take what they can get because it makes them look good and helps their bottom line. However, it neither makes you look good nor helps your bottom line at all. If they want more of your product or service and you ask for a higher fee or price, they will balk and go somewhere else where they can get a better deal. If you value what you have to offer, you will decline to do any work for free rather you will name your price and be ready and willing to justify it by delivering a high quality product or service in a timely manner that exceeds expectations. Most organizations who pride themselves on quality work will be happy to pay you for the same.
If you are someone who is at the start of their career or has just landed a new job after a long period of unemployment, you may want to ask for less money assuming that once you have proven yourself, you will be paid what you are worth. Never undervalue yourself. Prior to the interview, decide on a high amount which is ideal and a low amount which is real for your salary. When you are asked about your salary expectations in an interview, be clear, concise and confident, go for the high number and explain why they should pay you this amount of money. If they think it is too high or unrealistic, you still have some room to negotiate until you get to your low or realistic amount. You can also use this technique when negotiating a fee or price for a product or service.
The bottom line is that it is harder to move from free to for fee than the reverse. Once you have done business with a client/customer for a period of time and have established a strong relationship with them, you can offer something for a free or at a discount to show that you value their business and that you appreciate their continued support. Do you offer your time, product or service for free or for a fee? The choice is yours. Make the choice that is right for you at the right time and for the right reasons.