One of the hardest lessons most any new business owner learns is that their worst customers are also the people closest to them.
Why is that? Well these people knew you BEFORE you began charging for things. And they’re having their own internal drama accepting the new (very-right-to-charge-for-your-work) you.
They’re struggling internally with knowing that they’ve benefitted from your discounted for free work and they just can’t wrap their brains around paying for the same thing that they used to get low-cost or for free. But you see something here?
IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM. It’s all about their thoughts they have about giving money for something that they previously didn’t have to pay for (or was deeply-discounted).
This is why it’s hard:
to raise prices once they’ve been set
to have value in your work because people will tell you it’s ‘expensive’
to not believe that you’re wrong in charging for your time / work / services
When is it cool to trade or offer low-cost or free services?
When you can point to value on both sides of the equation. For instance, if you’re building your portfolio and you’d LOVE to take photos for a friend’s business because of the exposure and the learning and the connections, you’re in fact getting a valuable return for your time even if it’s not in the form of cash in the moment. You DO need to grow and learn and this is valuable.
When you need honest, thoughtful feedback on your work from people who get where you’re trying to go. So, don’t pick the wrong people to give free stuff to. Pick people who would pay full price for a thing you do already. Pick people who fit the profile of your actual dream customer. So, if you’re a creative business consultant, don’t pick a healthcare company to give free services to. Most likely they won’t have feedback for you that helps you get better for the clients you want to work for.
When you’re being kind and thoughtful and giving a gift of your time / services away and NOT expecting anything in return. It’s ok to give things to people because you love them or want to help them. Just don’t expect anything in return and you’ll deal with that just fine.
For all my years at Cleveland Flea, I rarely took anything for free even when it was offered. Vendors LOVE giving me tacos or coffees or little trinkets but I’m uncomfortable with the exchange. What will they WANT or expect from me in return?
My business is very expensive to run. So if you give me a candle, that might set you back like $20 but if you then expect me to give you a $300 booth for free later on down the line, that’s just not going to work. And I don’t really have lower cost items to trade.
I sell one thing, basically. And it’s not something I can trade or give away for free unless there is significant value FOR ME on the other side. And a candle or a handmade soap or a donut just can’t do that for me.
So, if you are going to trade, make sure that the value for you is matched up with the value for your trader.
Probably the most important reason that you should pay for things is that if you can’t pay for things in your business, you won’t feel good charging other people for what you’ll do.
You’ll undervalue the people in your life and you’ll undervalue yourself.
If you fundamentally need to ‘trade’ or get for free everything to grow your business, that’s rarely savvy. That’s just plain cheap and cheap-minded business owners have a struggle asking for what they need from their own customers and usually deal with lack of funds for many many many years unnecessarily.
If you have a hard time investing in your business, you’ll have a hard time asking others to do the same for you. But if you can proudly stand behind your work, knowing that anyone who wants you to discount it or give it away for free is just not your dream customer then you’ll have a great money mindset and continue to deliver value to your customers for years to come.