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Do You Give Your Products Or Services Away For Free?

When my book came out last year, a number of people asked me to give them a copy. They didn’t want to pay for a copy, they wanted one for free.

I talk to other entrepreneurs who deal with this all the time, particularly a couple of my photographer friends whose families and friends always ask for free services.

As an author I was able to purchase bulk orders of my book at a discounted rate but I didn’t get books for free. The only free copies of the book that were given by the publisher were for media contacts and reviewers.

That experience made me realize I needed to put some boundaries between free and fee, and that’s my topic for today’s episode of She Takes on the World TV.

Watch the video below (or click here) then scroll down to join the conversation:

Now I want to hear from you: Do you have friends and family who expect your services for free? How do you set boundaries between free and fee?

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15 thoughts on Do You Give Your Products Or Services Away For Free? Leave a reply

  1. KatieKatie

    Great topic today! What tips would you give to a new entrepreneurs trying to decide between free and fee? When you started out did you have a guide for which opportunities were worth participating in for free? It seems like everyone is always saying that it’s most important to get your name out there. Where did you strike that balance in the beginning?

    Reply
    1. Natalie MacNeil

      When I was first starting out there were a few opportunities I had that were really low paying and there wasn’t a budget for me to earn more, even though I would ask sometimes. I looked at each opportunities in terms of the client I was working with, credibility it would bring, and whether I thought it would allow me to command a higher hourly rate after. If I thought it was worthwhile to prove myself in the industry, I would take it. This was only for a very short time though and it was never free work, I was always paid something even if it wasn’t the income I would have liked to have been making.

      Companies that hire free interns all the time really piss me off because I just don’t believe in exploiting people in that way. Everyone deserves to be paid for the work they do! Students and young entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to give away their time and talents for free to build experience. The only time I work for free is when there is a charity or cause I want to support once in awhile, and I can see a gap or problem they are having that I can help them with. I hope this helps, and thanks for your comment! xo

      Reply
      1. MargaretJacoby

        Natalie – right on with the attitude about “free” internships. Most businesses do not know, or do not care, that the employment laws in this country do not permit “free” internships unless they are sponsored through a college or university program and the student receives credit for the course by doing the work. Lots of folks want something for nothing and that I do not respect.

        Reply
  2. Lisa Orgler

    Thanks for discussing such an important topic. Though I don’t have an example per se, I’ve been struggling with some free/fee decisions. You’ve helped me think through those a little differently.

    Reply
  3. Lissa Duty

    Great post! I have this issue with extended family members sometimes. I tell them I would be glad to help them and email them a link to my social media coaching page that describes the process and the price.

    Reply
  4. K.C. Gott

    Such a timely topic for me – I’ve recently had a not-so-close friend contact me to do some “trade” work and she’s really pushed my boundaries. I like her very much. We’ve done this type of trade before because I like her. However, I’ve stepped up my game and just don’t have the time to do this type of exchange. I also came to the conclusion that the bills don’t get paid well with trade work (usually). Finally, I realize that I’m not being very kind to her. When I give her (or anyone) permission to get it for free or for an unequal exchange, I’m denying her the opportunity to invest in herself and her business. Thanks, Natalie, for giving me some tools to use when this happens again.

    Reply
    1. Natalie MacNeil

      You’re absolutely right about denying the opportunity for others to invest in themselves and their businesses. I was keynoting an event yesterday and we talked about the value of looking at the money you spend on people, your brand, courses, etc. purely as an investment. One women told me she spent like $20,000 over the last two years on coaching and taking courses to learn more in her field and she has people come to her because they want to pick her brain but don’t want to make an investment into what she has invested in. If we value ourselves and the work we’re doing in the world, we should want to invest in our growth and expansion!

      Reply
  5. Inga Spouse

    Great topic Natalie. I love the way you have set boundaries at 95% of your time being fee-earning. It’s clear, it’s not unfair and it demands respect.

    For each piece of work I do I go back and assess whether it was valuable for the client, if they value and use it for their benefit and whether I priced it correctly. The next piece of work is adjusted accordingly. Free, Fee, How Much Fee? Always a learning curve, and thankfully always opportunity of doing it better next time!

    I’m loving your TV shows! Keep them coming :-)

    Reply
  6. Barbara Gini

    So glad to hear you say this! I am an independent educator & children’s recreational programming specialist and I get so tired of people assuming that because I work with kids my programs should be given for free- or thinking that I should not charge for my services (especially my yoga classes)-OR delaying payment for up to 6 months (no exaggeration!) for no reason at all, even though I kept my part of the contract as promised. I have been told time and time again to start giving my stuff away-and it just does not feel right after I have put so much time and effort into making my programs fabulously fun and educational-(I’m not stingy either-I do a fair amount of volunteer service work and have a free blog-and free game/activity downloads on my website-I also will answer a question by e-mail and not charge people-but then they start to take advantage.) Thanks for giving a “formula (95% vs 5%) as a guide. LOVE your website!

    Reply
  7. Jane Frankland

    A great post with good tips. I have to own up. I worked for free for months but not just for friends & family. Unbeknown to me I had an issue around money. It’s crazy as I’d built a 7-figure business & had been selling for 18 years! I knew something was wrong & thankfully someone reached out to me & helped. It turned out I was suffering from a deep rooted block that I’d linked to money. I’m still astounded by this but it made total sense & the unblocking work she did on me worked. I’m sure I’ll write a blog about this in the next few days explaining it as it may help others out there.

    Reply

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