Tell Fear to Take a Hike

Tell Fear to Take a Hike

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.

9 Responses

  1. Adedra says:

    GREAT Information…LOVE IT!

  2. All I have to say is thank you Danielle. Thank you for posting these great blogs! I really enjoy reading your blogs and this one in particular. I actually have to go to a meeting this morning to speak to a non-profit organization about a social media project and was wondering should I charge the rate I’m thinking for this project. This just gave me the confidence I needed to feel positive about what I’m charging and what I’m bringing to the table is value. Thanks again!

  3. Oh, you are so welcome, LaToya. I so glad it inspired you! How did your meeting go?

  4. Hey Danielle,

    I didn’t even get a chance to quote price. I was speaking with them about helping them with their social media marketing and management. I went through a presentation about how I could help them as their social media community manager and I was speaking with the executive director as well as the director of development and I could tell when it got to the point about asking them do they have any questions, they still did not want to budge because they felt social media could not help people become more aware of the company as well as build a community. They wanted to stick with the traditional methods such as word of mouth, referrals, brochures, etc and not really embrace social media. They have a Facebook page where they only post events that’s going on in the organization. The page has been up since 2011 with 150 likes. And they have a LinkedIn page that gives the company’s information. I thought updating their social media would give the company a chance for more people to be aware of the organization because the name can be misleading if you don’t go on the website and find out more about the company. They have been around since the late 1940’s, so they have a long history of being in business. I don’t think they were ready to embrace social media or saw a point in it. The grants manager was the one to tell me about the director’s because she felt they were not convinced at all about updating and embracing social media more. I told them to keep my information just in case they may need my help and they could give me a call. I actually felt good after the meeting because I felt like I gained experience on how I could help them with social media and what steps I would take to make sure they got a return on investment. It was actually a great learning experience for me. Even though I was not able to partner and work with them, I still felt good in holding my ground and felt like a true business owner.

  5. Good for you for getting out there! Like you said, no matter what, it’s still a great experience and practice getting in front of people and figuring out where/how to hone your message.

    Have you considered putting your presentation into a video? It could help you prequalify prospective clients and save you wasting precious time and resources on the wrong audience.

  6. Oh my God Danielle! That sounds like an amazing idea. I am making some changes with my service list and want my niche to be more towards helping small business owners and entrepreneurs with virtual events, internet marketing and online business management instead of general administrative tasks. Since I’m writing to you now I thought you would be the perfect one to ask about service packages and retainer packages. See, I’m thinking about taking off hourly work and focus strictly on continuing retainer packages for a specific number of hours each month that my clients can buy in advance and adding service packages, for example a service package for social media marketing and management and a service package for virtual events. The difference I saw with retainer packages and service packages is that with a retainer package your clients can buy a set number of hours to hold there slot for the following month, say 20 hours for the month of January and a service package is for setting up a virtual event for a client and my virtual event package may cost 900.00 to create a webinar and be the organizer. I was also thinking about setting up different packages, for example I might have two or three virtual events packages but they will have different options at different prices because one might be setting up a teleseminar and the other could be setting up a webinar. What do you think? I am trying to make changes now for my service list as well as my retainer and service packages on my website. I hope you can understand what I am trying to ask you to get your advice. Can’t wait to hear. Talk to you later Danielle and have a Happy New Year!

  7. Well, I may not be the right person to help you with all that because the ACA is focused on one thing: administrative support, not a million different kinds of services and businesses. I’m also not an advocate for selling hours.

    In order for us to be speaking the same language, there first has to be some mutual understanding about what certain things are/mean.

    For example, a lot of people don’t understand (not really) what administrative support is. They think it’s selling piecemeal transactional services individually. (That’s a secretarial service, not an admin support service).

    If you are in business to provide admin support, admin support IS the service in and of itself. Because it’s not a bunch of services (plural) sold individually here and there. The “product” of admin support is the ongoing support relationship itself. One thing, see? What that support consists of depends will depend on your target market.

    Target market is another term that people need to understand in order to have a conversation with understanding.

    For example, I had someone ask me a question not too long ago and I mentioned that I didn’t see anything in her description about a target market, had she chosen one yet? She answered that yes, her target market was businesses earning over $250,000 annually. I informed her that that was a demographic, a characteristic, of her ideal client, not a target market, which was why she was still struggling to figure out what to offer, how to talk about it and how and where to find clients.

    A target market is simply a industry/field/profession that you decide to cater your admin support to. Once you decide that is when it will get easier to determine what that group needs in the way of support and how to hone your offering and come up with your marketing message.

    Check out this recent thread on my Facebook page as you might find that illuminating as well. (Be sure to expand all the comments as some stuff might be hidden.)

    A lot of people also don’t understand what a retainer is. Or they may not be really conscious about the different between project work and support.

    Understanding all of these terms is important because it affects how you understand your business and what you do, and how you offer and market what you do, create understanding in your potential clients, and attract exactly the kind of clients you want.

    You could really benefit from my Value-Based Pricing and Packaging guide. Be sure and watch the video in the description.

  8. Lisa Morgan says:

    I think this was a great and inspiring post. Sometimes when you first start out its hard to find clients. You have some people that are working for $3hr. I know it takes time to build a business and thank you for this post .Many new comers should read this. Thank you

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