The Real Cost of Asking for Freebies


The Real Cost of Asking for Freebies

I’m a good person. It feels awkward putting that in writing, but this article is set to be confronting, so let’s consider it a good start.

I’ve done lots of free or low-cost work for people over the years and have truly enjoyed doing it. But I’m also a Small Business owner, with my own overheads and responsibilities. I have a mortgage and a family to feed, so if I did too many freebies, I wouldn’t be in business for long, and we’d be living in our car.

I have no problem with the free work I’ve done for clients because it was my choice to do it. But asking for freebies outright seems to be a growing trend, and I’ve heard recently from several Small Business owners who struggle to respond to those types of requests.

This is an important read for those who feel pressured into doing freebies, and for those who think it’s worth a shot asking for them.

‘Favour askers’ may not intend to make business owners feel this way, but these are just some of the costs of asking for freebies to be aware of:

  • Someone always pays.

Nothing in life is ever truly free, and if you aren’t paying for it, then someone else is. When you ask someone for a freebie, you are asking them to pay for it. Point blank. So, if you wouldn’t feel comfortable ringing an accountant to say, “Hey Sandy, I was wondering if you’d pay to do my tax this year?” Then don’t ask for a freebie.

  • It makes use of people.

Good people like to do good things for others, even to their own detriment at times. So if you’re asking a favour of someone who’s prone to that sort of thing, you’re basically taking advantage of someone’s good nature. Pay them what they’re worth.

  • It won’t take them long.

Even if you think your freebie will only take them half an hour, it’s not yours for the taking. Every business owner I know struggles to fit life into a 24 hour day. Time is perhaps the most precious resource they have.

  • We know each other.

Meeting someone at a networking event and exchanging business cards does not entitle you to assume a freebie.

  • You’re not unique.

Business can be tough, and there’s not always the cash available when you need it. But every business experiences that at some stage, and each of us makes decisions about what we can afford to do. Expecting someone else to carry our expenses, is not the way to go.

  • Lazy communication.

I know lovely people who have agonised over their response to someone who flippantly asked for a favour or assumed a freebie. They deliberated long and hard over a reply that wouldn’t offend the recipient (or end up on social media). It’s true that the fear of a bad review or negative comments to other prospective clients makes it difficult to say, “No.” Don’t put people in that situation; it wastes their time, and it’s tacky.

  • It’s hypocritical.

Lots of people talk about how important it is to support Small Businesses, buy local and ‘all that’. They praise businesses with ethical supply lines and share memes about the horrors of slave labour and sweatshops … Then they ask for freebies.

  • Lost opportunity.

Every human interaction provides opportunities for future work or beneficial relationships. But how keen do you think others will be to work with you if you’ve made them feel unimportant or used. Chances are pretty good that they won’t refer you either.

So, what should be done?

If you’ve previously been in the habit of asking for freebies, just stop.

Don’t send veiled requests for professional ‘help’. Make it easy for the person you’re dealing with to discuss their fees or offer their time because they chose to. Ask for an appointment time or communicate in a manner that makes it clear you intend on paying.

If you’re genuinely having financial difficulties (and the service you require is essential and not just something you’d like to have done now), ask if you can pay in instalments. If you believe there is mutual benefit in exchanging services, offer that up front and give the person the opportunity to say, “No thank you.”

If you are a business owner who is frequently asked for freebies, just share this article (? only joking).

Have the confidence to say, “No” and start to build systems for redirecting ambiguous requests. You might have a list of fees you can send people (even a list of ‘mates rates’ you’re comfortable with), or a link to your diary for them to make an appointment that has a fee attached.

Use methods that politely (and professionally) put the decision-making back on them. If they really want your services, they’ll persist. If they don’t, you might get to play with your kids for an hour after school.

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