Should You Work for Free?

Charging for your services as a complementary practitioner can feel yucky.  Many end up giving away far too much for free and can be left feeling drained and undervalued.

Whilst you want to help as many people as possible, you won’t survive as a practitioner if you want to make a living from it, by just doing freebies.  Your practice will be nothing more than a hobby and you’ll need other income streams to pay your bills.

I believe you should be rewarded for your services and the value you provide your clients.

should you work for free

Drawbacks to offering freebies

When things are free, people don’t always value them:

It’s well known that people don’t value free, as much as something they pay for.  Clients are more likely to show up, commit and take action if they are paying you.  You need to value your time, if you expect others to.

Be strategic

There are a few situations where I think it’s good to work for free.  Whenever you do anything for free in your business, it needs to be as a result of a strategic decision.  You want to avoid a situation of giving, giving, giving and hoping something will come back.

Whenever you offer free work, make sure you have clear boundaries, so everyone involved knows the rules of engagement.  This will help you avoid doing more and more for free, using up all your time and energy on activities that won’t grow your business.

Limit the amount you give away for free, whether that’s X number of sessions or, 15 minute discovery calls, or a 1 hour talk.

Starting your business

Offering free sessions can be a great way to get your business moving if you’re just starting out.  Giving away a limited number of appointments in exchange for testimonials will help you build your confidence and provide you with client stories to use in your marketing.

Launching new projects

If you’re in the process of launching a new project or service, free samples, taster sessions or beta testing, are all good options.  They will allow you to develop your skills and give you experience of delivering the service, provide feedback to help you iron out any issues with your new ‘thing’ and you can collect reviews for your website.

If you decide to do this, make sure you set it for a limited time period, or number.  Use it as a learning strategy to grow from and offer full priced services following on from it.

Authors will often offer their new book for free on Kindle for a limited amount of time.  This way they kickstart the number of downloads on Amazon and receive reviews, both of which help raise their profile and ultimately result in more sales.

Charitable work

If you have a charity or a cause which is special to you, it’s great to support them.  You need to decide in advance how you will do this and clearly communicate it to those involved.  Ideas include offering a specific number of free appointments, making a regular donation, fund raising, mentoring new practitioners etc.

This may not bring you clients directly but will help you raise your profile, build strong relationships and fulfils your personal goals.

Small events

Hosting or attending small events such as workshops, talks and taster sessions are a great way to build relationships with potential clients.  People get to meet you in person and experience how you work and find out how you can potentially help them.

Get creative with these events.  There are lots of different opportunities to get seen and share your knowledge in your local area.  Ones I’ve done include: stands at local fares, running talks, speaking at events and participating in clinic open evenings.

Swapping services

If you need help with a problem and you have someone who needs your help, there is no reason why you shouldn’t help each other out.  Make sure it is a fair swap with similar value services or products.  The last think you want is one of you to be left feeling you’ve got a bad deal.

Good PR opportunity

If you’re doing free work, look for the opportunities to help you build your business and attract new clients to your door.  It must be worth your time and not just providing freebies to anyone who asks.

Recently (as a practitioner) I worked with a journalist who then wrote a brilliant article about my training.  Since then, I’ve had two new clients who found me because of the article and I’m speaking to a number of other potential clients.  One free session has been more than repaid by the exposure I received for my practice.

Handling requests for free work

Setting good boundaries is key to protecting your time and resources.  Decide ahead of time what you’re willing to give and make sure you note it down, so you have it to refer to.

If you receive questions by email asking for advice, have a way of handling them that doesn’t take too much time.  An in-depth response by email can take you 30 minutes.

Instead, you could offer a free 15 minute discovery call and a link to your diary.  You’ll be surprised how many people don’t bother booking a call as it’s too much trouble.  They would however be happy with you emailing them a lengthy response.  What does that tell you about the respect they have for your time?

Ways to help people for free without draining you

You will always get people who want to ask for your advice and never expect to pay.  For these people, think about practical ways you can share information without taking up your time or energy.

I’ve created a series of 50 podcasts which provide great value and can be downloaded free from iTunes.  I’ve also written lots of articles and created a free email course which people are welcome to help themselves to.  Other ideas could be videos, online courses, templates, or ebooks, basically anything when once created, does the work for you.

It feels good to be able to provide a service to those who need my help but aren’t ready to commit to, or pay for working with me directly.

Being generous is a great quality but when it comes to your business, it needs to be done strategically.  Incorporate some of these activities in your marketing plan and see the difference they can make to you.

Contact me if you want to find out how I can help you build your marketing plan to include freebie activities.