You should be aware that I don’t refer to “greed” as in the widespread sense. Instead, you might be picturing Ebenezer Scrooge wasting Christmas Eve trying to count gold coins while his loyal and hardworking employee struggles home in the snow to his meager dinner for him and his son.
My advice to freelancers and new business owners is to “get greedy.” Far too many people seem to have lost the belief in their product or service’s value.
WHAT IT MEANS TO GET GREEDY
New business owners feel the need to offer their services at no cost or for a minimal fee in order to build their brand, get exposure, make future sales, and gain experience.
If you are one of these people, I have some good news for you: It is not necessary to give it away to be successful.
Never, ever, ever.
Even if you are just starting out.
You can be greedy if you’re just starting a business or if you already have a business with low returns on your investment.
This does not mean that you steal from others. This does not mean that you should undervalue others. This does not mean that you should give others less than they pay. It doesn’t necessarily mean Tiny Tim’s dad has to work Christmas Day.
In business, being greedy means, you decide that YOU are as important as the customer, and you should be paid fair wages for your work.
WHY DOES GIVING IT AWAY WILL IMPOSE ON YOUR SUCCESS
Let’s look at some of the unfounded excuses I hear for giving away work.
1). “I must give some stuff away in order to build my brand” is a false statement. Unless you are trying to portray yourself as someone who doesn’t value their work or isn’t worth the money, there is no reason to believe that giving away stuff will make people more positive about your business. Your brand will be improved by ethical business practices, high-quality products, attentive customer service, and fair (not free) prices. You will be unable to earn the life you deserve if you don’t have it.
2). “Giving my work away will help me gain exposure”: If you believe that giving your work away is the best way for you to build your portfolio or get the word out about your business, you have probably never heard of previously-small businesses like Microsoft, Apple, Harley Davidson, or Disney. What does this company have in common with others? All of these companies attach a lot of weight to their brands, people will pay it (even waiting in line for hours for Apple and Disney), and they all want “exposure.”
Let’s face it, and if someone is happy with your product or service and has had a great customer experience, they will tell their friends. It won’t change their opinion about you if they get free stuff. Although it may be a motivator to give you a try, it is unlikely that they will continue to have a profitable, mutually beneficial business relationship.
It is essential to provide value and not just freebies. Value does not mean “free,” as “free” is not fair. Value is when your customer feels that they got what they paid for and that the price was fair. Your deliverables are what make your customer happy, no matter how low your prices are.
3). “But, by giving away this stuff, I increase my chances of making future sales:” This is absurd to me. You can pay someone if they have the money to pay you in the future. You also train someone to devalue their work by giving it away for free. They are more likely to bargain with you once they decide to pay the total price.
4). “I need to work for free to gain experience” O.K., this is a good idea, but if you give away products or services to people who should be paying, this is wrong. Some cases are just too extreme to give it away. More information will be forthcoming.
You probably started your business because of a unique talent or skill that you believed was marketable. If that is the case, you have a product or service of value and deserve to be paid for it. While you may not get the same pay when demand rises, you should still assess your actual value right now and set a price.
SIXTEEN TIMES, IF IT’S O.K. TO GIVE IT AWAY FREE
1). It is a well-known industry norm. If you are a fashion designer, and Vogue wants to publish a sample of your dress, then yes. This is fine. This is a good idea, as it’s an industry standard, and Donatella Versace would likely do the same. You will also see a direct investment return in the form of excellent publicity. This may outweigh the cost of any frocks you sell to them.
2). If it’s a good investment: You can give away samples of your special hummus recipe to farmers’ markets if you know that it will attract people and increase your sales. If you make a profit, it is acceptable to hold a “buy one get one” sale in order to drive traffic at times when your business is struggling. If it leads to a write-up by a local magazine, and if the magazine’s readers become customers, then cooking a gourmet meal is excellent publicity. You will know the difference between a good deal and being exploited if you approach an opportunity to offer your product or service in a way that is best for your bottom line.
3). Sprinkles, a bakery chain that specializes in cupcakes, uses social media to drive customers to their stores. Sprinkles uses their Facebook page to announce “secret words” that can be repeated in-store and result in a free cupcake. Exposures at events and fairs often have the opportunity to gather information about potential customers to help them enter a drawing to win a free gift. These “give-aways,” which are often referred to as “give-aways,” can be seen as greedy at work. They actually have far more value for the recipient than the company.
4). Nonprofit organizations. If you’re really interested in building your portfolio and gaining experience, volunteering with a non-profit organization is a great way to get samples of your work, grow your network, and preserve your dignity. Talk to your accountant. You may be eligible for a write-off when it comes to tax time.
5). In exchange for my services: My hairdresser (who is fantastic but expensive) needed a website. I was able to help her create her content. My website design was made possible by the editing skills that I shared with my web designer. I also had the bumper of my car painted to cover the cost of marketing materials and content for social media. It’s a win-win situation when you get something you truly, really need in return for giving it to someone else.
6). To say thank you to a valued customer. If you have an auto repair shop, and your customer frequents you, refers friends, and is a pleasure to work with, you can offer a free oil change and tire rotation with every transmission service. This is a great way to show appreciation for your customers. It will be appreciated more by them.
7). It’s Your Mom: O.K., so greedy can be good for business but not for personal reasons. Pick a few close family members or friends that are worth your time and do the work for them. This list should be kept small so that your loved ones aren’t taken advantage of. My list currently includes my sister, my dad, my fiance, a close friend from childhood, and a cousin in real need. I also have a more extensive second-tier list of friends, and I charge half the price for more distant family.