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As your business grows, so do the requests from people. The problem we can have as service-based business owners, is that we genuinely want to help, and sometimes that can mean we give away waaaaaaay too much of our free time.
At first it might be giving away lots of free sessions of one type or another. Over time, because of your generosity you can become the go-to-person for free support and guidance – as one of my business coach friends would put it – free consultancy.
Now, I personally get this A LOT. This past week alone I’ve had 8 requests for ‘free’ help in one form or another. The thing is, it makes us feel good, doesn’t it? Someone’s thought of little ole you on this area. “Ooh, maybe I do know what I’m talking about. After all, if people are asking for my help, that must mean I know stuff, right?“. It’s fine in the early days, but when it starts to become a problem it gets to the point that you have to set clear boundaries and say enough is enough.
Side Note: If you’re being asked a lot about the same things, you might find it’s a good area for you to focus on in your business. You’re obviously already becoming known for it!
Let’s explore 3 ways of how this might be showing up for you and how you can deal with it.
- “Can you just share a few gems of wisdom with me on… or If I send this over to you, would you just look at it for me.“
In some cases, I’ve even had people talking about other coaches they’re working with. Quite clearly that’s not working out so well then, or they’d be asking them and not me!
Here’s what to say:
“I’m more than happy to share a couple of gems of wisdom, but if you want to get real gems then let’s talk about how we can work together. You’ll only get a teeny tiny bit of my support by doing it this way. We can get transformational results when we work together 1:1.“
On the ”Can you just look at this one” message you could say…
“Sure, just send it over. From what you’re telling me, it shouldn’t take too long to work through. I’ll invoice you for an hour of time. If we need more, I’ll let you know before taking it any further. What’s the best email address to send the invoice to?“
Don’t do what I’ve done in the past, where I’ve set the boundary at the beginning of the call and then ended up being caught out later down the line! If you have to, write the word ‘Boundaries’ on a post-it note as a reminder not to go back on the boundary you’ve set for yourself. New boundaries take time to establish, we can go back to our old ways without even thinking, so be kind to yourself if you slip up!
- “I wonder if you can spare 20 mins or so for a chat with me to talk about ways to… ?“
(In my case the common one is to attract clients)
Here’s what to say:
“Of course, I’m more than happy to have a chat with you. My fee is £200 per hour for this type of thing. How much time would you like to book with me? Let me know and I’ll send you over some possible dates.“
If it’s a coaching client then I’ll say this… “I do have a self-study programme, Discovery Call Magic, that teaches all about how to book/use discovery calls to attract clients (£197). Let me know which option you prefer and I can send you more details“
- I wondered if I could pick your brains about something when you have 5 minutes. (Maybe this is from a business colleague, or maybe you’re being asked for ‘mates rates’.)
If it’s someone that could really do with your help, a great way to reply is this:
“That’s a great question, pop it in my Rock Your Fabulous Biz Group on Facebook and I’ll reply when I have a spare moment. There’s loads of free support in the group, and often answers can benefit everyone else too, but if you prefer 1:1 let’s book a Pick My Brains Session. It’s 20-minutes for £67 or £97 for a 30-minute session. You can ask me whatever you like. I can guarantee you’ll go away with loads of ideas and a mini-action plan to get you started.“
Mates Rates – Just don’t do them! Keep the lines clear between mates and business. Good friends won’t expect it for free. I know. I work with a few friends and because they pay me for my services, it doesn’t get all icky when we’re just out and about being friends. Say something like this:
“I like to keep my business completely separate from personal. I don’t do mates rates. I’m happy to book you in for a paid session. I’ve found it works so much better when the lines between friends and business don’t get blurred“.
You’ll still be sharing all of your expertise, and that’s not just since you’ve been in business, that’s all of your life experiences, the trainings you’ve done, the things you’ve learned along the way, the books you’ve read, etc. There is one question to ask yourself on this though….
Is there something in it for you?
I mean this in the best way possible. If it’s a two-way thing, and you’re going to help that person, and they’re going to offer you something in return, i.e. a session, free ticket to an event you’re excited about, a coffee/lunch or whatever you like, then that’s okay. This is about you honouring your worth. I’ve had loads of pick your brains conversations and they haven’t even offered to buy me a coffee! And you know how much I like caffeine!
Maybe they are going to give you a glowing testimonial which is just what you’re looking for to add to your website. Then that’s all good. Usually though, the reply is something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I wasn’t expecting to pay”! A good reply to that is, “Oh, really?”
Enter sarcastic Ruby: “Ummm, yeah, I’m a business owner.”
The Big Sub Message That Makes You Feel ‘Ouch’: I value what you do but not enough to pay you (or even save to pay) to work with you.
Now, I’m not saying don’t help. We all know how that one will work out, we can’t help ourselves. We’re hard-wired to help!
What I am saying is there is a line.
If you’re putting lots of useful content out there, and being of service in lots of different ways, then you don’t need to worry. Send them to that free content and invite them to join your community. You’re still serving, you’re still helping, you’re just not being taken for granted.
For me, I know I have SO much content out there for people. I am constantly sharing heaps of valuable stuff for free, so that way I don’t have to feel guilty about charging. People can either do the work to find what they’re looking for (searching keywords on my blog about a specific area for example) or they can pay me for giving them fantastic mentoring guidance bespoke to them and their business.
Remember: You’re running a business.
Call to Action: Think about where you’re giving away your time, and get some wording/systems in place to support the people who want your guidance for free.