When you go into business or begin offering your services for hire, there will always be that group of people who try to take advantage of your skills, your expertise or your products. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about.
It’s that acquaintance who pretends to be your best friend when she wants free samples or that relative of a relative who believes you should spill your trade secrets to her so that she can have a hobby on the side.
Once your passion becomes your livelihood, it is important to avoid giving away too much for free. Don’t get me wrong … giving is a good thing to do and it can be excellent as part of your marketing strategy.
Of course, there will always be true friends and family members who will bring you so much business that you don’t mind giving them freebies along the way and that’s fine if you decide to give to them.
But, it’s very important to learn how to politely say “no” to those who would try to take advantage of your know how and your good nature.
Here are some things to remember to make it a little easier.
1. Your time and effort are valuable. In a way, those who seek to exploit your talents are devaluing them. If you’re so great, you’re worth paying for. It’s okay to say so.
Kindly let people know that now that as you are in business making those delightful garden flags, you really must put all of your time into making flags to sell, rather than flags for friends. Of course, at the same time, you love it when your friends become your customers. That should be enough said.
2. A referral program works wonders. Offer those people who want freebies a discount on their own purchases if they bring you additional business.
This is a win-win. If they truly believe in your work, they will be happy to refer you. In turn, you’ll be happy to sell to them at wholesale if they are bringing you retail business.
3. Remember that the people who ask for freebies have no doubt have “no” said to them before. There are a lot of people who live by the “It can’t hurt to ask” motto.
They see no harm in asking for what they want, assuming they will be told “no” if their request is a problem. They’ve been told no before and won’t be nearly as bothered by hearing it as you are by saying it.
4. The “Let’s catch up for a drink (so I can pick your brains for a couple of hours)” freebie-hunter. I must admit, this used to happen to me a lot and it’s something several of my colleagues have commented on too.
When we first started out in business we’d often get asked to ‘catch up over coffee’ to connect with other business owners. Sometimes this could work well in that new business relationships were formed and these sometimes lead to new friendships.
However as our experience in business and our skill levels increased, we found that more and more of these meetings turned into one-way brain-picking sessions, where the other party ends up walking away with a free consultation.
There’s 3 main ways to deal with these situations:
a) Be very choosy about who you network with one-on-one and only do so with people you’ve had a chance to meet previously, such as at group networking events, and who have seemed to be able to have a good two-way conversation;
b) Offer something like a “first 30 minute consultation free” deal and this may be something that ties in with that coffee request; or
c) Don’t “do coffee/lunch/drinks” at all. For some, meeting casually for one-on-one networking can be part of their business’ relationship-building strategy. But for others, it’s not productive to their business and so something they choose not to do at all. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if this isn’t something you find productive or enjoyable.
Learning to say no to people who are taking advantage of your time and talent can be difficult for many people, however by practicing this skill you will find it easier as well as necessary.
It may put a few people off along the way, but most of those people will understand. Be certain to think about which people can help you expand your business, however, before you tell them no.
Think about each opportunity strategically, so that you keep those folks who are great advertising coming back.
Over time, with a little patience and a little backbone, you will weed out those people who are just looking for something for nothing. Along the way, however, you will gain some great ambassadors who will help you make your business a big success.
Donna-Marie is an award-winning Entrepreneur, Author and Content Marketing Specialist. Through her business, Jacaranda Business Support Services, she has been helping other small businesses to grow since 1998, with a knack for teaching systems that allow business owners to increase profits while working less.