Does starting a business mean giving away your services for free to “create a name for yourself?” I want to network and create buzz around my new business, but I’m finding many people suggesting that I give my services away for free as I’m just starting out. This doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve been in my industry for 10 years, I’m very professional and my fees are set appropriately for my target demographic.
Dear Buzzing Business,
You’re absolutely right, in general, if you make it your practice to give your services away for free, you have a hobby and not a business. It’s possible that whoever’s giving you this advice doesn’t have any experience in your field or valid reasons to back it up.
It’s also possible that strategically choosing to give away your signature service a few times could benefit your business big time.
Here are a few factors I’d consider when deciding whether gifting freebies are worth it:
1) Do you need testimonials?
You didn’t mention the industry that you’re in, but from the sounds of it, 10 years of experience is quite a lot to bring to the table. If you can get testimonials of the value you deliver from the people you worked with during that time, awesome! Do it.
If not, consider choosing a few people who fit your exact target demographic and then wow-ing them with your service (for free!) … on the condition that they write a testimonial that you can use on your site. The amount you’ll invest in that one-time service will pay you back in spades as future customers see the glowing testimonial and decide that they should book you too. After all, if you’re a personal trainer with no before and after shots on your website, what are you thinking?! Ha.
2) Do you want free, targeted advertising?
The second case where freebies are totally worth it is when they’re gifted to someone with a platform – an audience – with whom they’ll share their experience with you. And not just any audience, but an audience that overlaps with your target demographic.
You can give a service to a blogger, reachable celeb or big-wig with a huge social media presence on the condition that they’ll share their honest experience with you with on their platform. Or maybe they’ll even host a giveaway for their followers where in order to enter to win your service, followers must follow your new business’ accounts on social or sign up for your email list.
There are also a few reasons NOT to give your service away for free:
1) Just because someone says you should.
One of the things I learned being an entrepreneur is to discern good advice from bad advice. People can give you advice all day long, but you have to extract the nuggets that will work best for you and this new business you’re starting up. If you have a packed schedule and a waitlist for your service, you obviously don’t need to give things away to build more buzz just because someone suggested it. In fact, you may need to raise your rates.
2) Because you’re insecure about your prices.
If you feel your rates are too high for your customers, don’t panic and start giving things away free! Find new customers who have the budget to hire you … and then make sure you deliver real value.
3) Just because someone asks.
There will be cases when people who know you want your service for free. There’s a gracious way to tell those people that you’re a professional and that you’re happy to help them and “here are my rates.” If you need more help in this department, check out this blog post.
4) Because you’re not sure how else to market your business.
There are so many great ways to get the word out. A simple Google search will give you ideas. But first, check out this download: How to Get More Clients
In short, be strategic and value your services. There’s no need to give your services away for free without a good reason to give your services away for free! You’re not Santa Claus and you don’t need to hand out presents 😉
With grace and growth,
Disclaimer: The advice given in this column is for educational, informational and entertainment purposes only. The reader is responsible for the outcomes of any actions and/or decisions made based on this advice.