My members and I were having a very lively, insightful conversation the other day.
A new member who is in the very beginning stages of her administrative support business was considering offering her services pro bono for a limited time.
She asked the group if this was a good idea.
And the group, of course, validated what she herself knew deep down already—that it would only attract those seeking something for nothing.
Those folks almost never turn into real, viable clients. Even on the rare occasion they do, they inevitably turn out to be the worst kind of clients to deal with.
We explored where this idea might be coming from and the new member confirmed that a lot of it was being new to business and not having confidence just yet.
No shame in that.
Confidence is something everyone struggles with to some degree or another, in some aspect or another, no matter where they’re at in their business.
It’s completely normal and doesn’t make you any less worthy of owning and running your own business.
While this might be something you struggle with, what I can tell you for sure is that giving away your services for nothing will not help you grow in your confidence.
In fact, it’ll do quite the opposite and trample all over the professional self-esteem you need to develop in yourself in order to be successful and attract the right kind of clients into your life.
First, in practical terms, here’s why pro bono doesn’t work:
1. It devalues the very thing you are in business to offer and make money from. You never want to bargain with your value that way. If you don’t value yourself and what you have to offer, no one else will either.
2. It only attracts freebie seekers. Trust me, nearly no one ever turned a freebie-seeker into a long-term, retained client. It’s kind of like one-night stands. They just don’t turn into real relationships. And don’t let the one person in the world who is the exception to that rule try to sway you otherwise. Just because they didn’t happen to get killed walking across the freeway doesn’t make crossing the freeway on foot a good idea. 😉
3. It’s a very bad precedent to set in your business. Being a new business owner will require you to hold yourself and the work in high regard. Once you start chipping away at your value, it’s downhill from there in ways you will have never anticipated. Working with folks who are only there to get something for nothing will have you stepping all over your boundaries and standards and prevent you from gaining the healthy professional self-respect you need to survive in business.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free. And that’s exactly what those kind of clients think.
Selling yourself short and giving your work away for free will not help you grow your confidence.
What will increase your confidence is charging appropriately and asking for the fee.
At this point, you may be thinking, “Yeah, that’s all well and good, but I have to have confidence in order to do that!” Right?
No, you don’t.
It doesn’t take confidence to build confidence. All it takes is the self-knowledge that lack of confidence isn’t a place you want to stay in, a desire to grow into greater confidence, and a willingness to stretch beyond your comfort zones.
Charging clients is exactly one of the things that builds your confidence as a new business owner.
Not charging clients just keeps you stuck on a much longer, more draining, demoralizing (not to mention unprofitable) path.
How do you think you’re ever going to get it (confidence, money, respect, you name it) if you don’t ever push yourself to expect it and then practice asking for it?
Fear really is your only roadblock.
The crazy thing about fear is that it is self-imposed.
Sure, it’s real, but your confidence will only grow (and grow most quickly) if you put your foot down and simply decide to suck it up and ignore the fear.
Get angry about it even! Tell fear to get the hell out and don’t let the door hit its ass on the way out!
And then ask for that fee.
Once you pick yourself up off the ground and get over the shock of “Wow! They didn’t bat an eye,” your confidence and belief in yourself and what you have to offer will have just leapt over a tall building.
This is the beginning of your journey into healthy professional self-esteem. You’ll get more and more comfortable (and confident) charging what you’re worth and asking for—and getting—your fee!
Of course, it isn’t always going to be like that. You will get clients who balk at paying. You will get clients who aren’t a fit.
That doesn’t mean you shrink back down, lower your standards and change your business to suit them.
And you aren’t going to handle every experience smoothly. You’re going to be rough and imperfect and inconsistent in the beginning.
But that’s all okay because these are the experiences you absolutely do need.
The idea isn’t to avoid them altogether. They are valuable learning opportunities that will help you grow into your consultation skills and get better and better at articulating your value, honing your message and standing firm in your expectations and standards for yourself and your business.
Don’t let fear win. Don’t cave in. You ARE a hero. Overcoming fear is a success worth striving for and celebrating!
Originally posted June 12, 2009.