Archive for November, 2010

So I Wanna Tell You All About My Huge Fail

Remember my beautiful new dedicated administrative support business success store I announced over this past summer? The one on an actual e-commerce site with its own domain?

Yeah, that didn’t work out so well, lol.

Originally, it seemed like such a good idea to move my products to their own dedicated store.

I thought an e-commerce site would allow me to better organize things and provide a way for shoppers to search for and view products in many different, more convenient ways.

One of the biggest problems I encountered was with the e-commerce template we purchased.

It was a fiasco from day one and honestly, I am nowhere nearer to knowing what would have been a better e-commerce template to use on a WordPress driven site.

But I had already committed to this, and I was bound and determined to make it work.

I spent beaucoup bucks having my programmer get things working. He basically had to rewrite everything from scratch.

But it was worth it to me.

I thought once we were done, we’d have a product site that would be much more user-friendly and easier for my site visitors to navigate.

On top of that, there wouldn’t be any monthly fees paid to a shoppingcart service because it was all built in and customized.

Sounds great, right?

Well here’s what happened…

After much, much time and energy, we finally got things looking and working fabulously. I was absolutely loving it!

Moving everything over to the new site, I was prepared to lose some traffic at first. I was even prepared to lose a few customers as the new store required folks to create an account so they could download their products.

The reason I thought this would be beneficial was because instead of links that expired in a certain timeframe, they could always go to their account to download their products. With an account-based system, they would also always have access to the latest versions of any products they had purchased. Who wouldn’t love that, I thought.

Well, sales did slow to a trickle, but I expected that.

Then we discovered another significant issue in the affiliate programming–nothing that affected our affiliates, just stuff that forced more manual processes than should have been.

My programmer went to valiant, heroic efforts in getting the bugs worked out, but ultimately he advised me to just scrap things. It would simply cost too much and we’d already sunk soooo much money into recoding everything at it was.

I would have been happy to spend the money if it meant making things work except for one ultimate deal breaker…

I TOTALLY underestimated how much people hate creating accounts in order to purchase things!

As I said, I knew going in that I’d probably lose a few customers due to the account thing.

I never anticipated, however, that sales would pretty much come to a screeching halt. That’s how dramatic the difference was.

And so I had to finally admit defeat. The new store was a complete bust.

We’re back to the original, simple one-page ACA Success Store and sales have come back through the roof!

I know I used the word “fail” in my post title, but I don’t really consider it a fail. I learned a lot (albeit expensively) about consumer buying habits, what works and what doesn’t, and missteps to avoid in future scenarios like this.

I love that I can make decisions without endlessly deliberating over them.

I love that I can take leaps, fully commit myself to seeing things through, yet still have the sense to know when it’s time to fold.

I know that I still have great instincts in business and nine times out of 10, I’m gonna rock it!

I never want to be afraid to try new things just because it might not work out. Fortunately, I still have that spirit.

And I wish the same for you which is the lesson and the reason I share this with you today.

Rock on, all you fearless entrepreneurs!

How Working More Hours Can Mean Earning LESS Money

How Working More Hours Can Mean LESS Money

Continuing the conversation in this week’s Dear Danielle post, I’ve Lost All Boundaries–Is this Relationship Salvageable?, I wanted to illustrate how someone can be working 50 hours a week and still not be making “any” money to speak of.

I use quotation marks because, sure, she’s getting paid something. But “something” doesn’t necessarily mean “enough.”

There are all kinds of people out there in our industry who fall into the “working poor” category.

A lot of this is because:

  1. They aren’t charging enough, and
  2. They are looking at this as a telecommuting job instead of a business and so they keep working with clients as if they were still that assistant/employee, except that instead of working outside the boss’s door, they’re just working virtually from home.

That they might call themselves business owners means nothing, because for all intents and purposes, they’re not.

I see this thing all the time in our annual industry survey.

While the report that goes out to participants shows the collective/aggregate totals of all responses as a single group, I get to see the results in individual context as an admin.

What I mean is that when someone fills out our survey, their submission gets recorded as an individual number. When you click on a number (the number representing an individual, anonymous respondent), it shows you that particular number’s individual responses to all questions in the survey. In this way, you can see what an individual business looks like in the context of their individual responses to survey questions.

It’s a common to see respondents who are working with 11 (or more!) clients and still only making maybe $30,000 a year, if that.

Sometimes it’s because they aren’t charging enough. Often it’s because those clients aren’t retained clients, they are only project/one-time/occasional clients.

The ones faring the worst are the ones who are working with that many retained clients and still only making that little per year.

And they aren’t an anomaly. Many (dare I say, most) of them are making less than $10,000 a year!

There’s something definitely wrong with that picture and it’s what fuels my passion to help Administrative Consultants start earning better.

But getting back to our example, to provide some illustration, I asked the person who originally submitted the question if she would mind sharing what she was making with this client so we could work with some actual figures.

She was really embarrassed (which I assured her she shouldn’t be; we’ve ALL done things in the initial stages of our businesses that we cringe at later). Still, she very graciously obliged my request (thank you!) knowing that I always keep these things confidential and never use anyone’s real name without their permission.

If you remember in the original post, the person stated that she “took less (money) to build the relationship.”

Problem is, that “less” amounted to less than the national minimum wage that an employee would make! It certainly wasn’t in keeping with what her business needed to earn (and your first priority when it comes to earning is always what the business needs, otherwise you don’t have a business, you have a hobby).

If you look carefully at her choice of words, “took” tellingly suggests that the client was calling the shots and dictating the terms and she passively acquiesced.

To use a crude analogy, how often do we hear of one night stands turning into real relationships?

Not that this situation here is a one-night stand (sort of the opposite, LOL), but it’s the same concept of devaluing and dishonoring ourselves that leads to clients (and one-night bootie calls) not having any respect.

A relationship that is flawed from the beginning just isn’t going to grow into something better.

I point this out only because it’s so important to examine the underlying thinking and default modes that drive our actions because they are what allow us to accept things that aren’t always in our best interests.

In this case, she had relinquished ownership/leadership of her business, took a subservient role in the relationship and let her personal needs and standards take a backseat to the client’s.

In recognizing this, she knows that this will be an area of personal growth she will need to focus on and be conscious of as she continues to move forward with her business and interact with clients.

And what was she making with this client? A mere $350 a week.

So let’s pick this apart…

At 50 hours a week, that amounts to $7 an hour. Yeah, you read that right, seven dollars an hour.

That’s less than the national minimum wage that an employee would make!

And even an employee would really be making more than that if you figure in the Social Security, Medicare, vacation pay, sick leave and all the other myriad benefits that they don’t necessarily take home, but that are earned nonetheless.

At $350 a week and 52 weeks in a year, this person is only making $18,200 annually.

And actually, she’s making even less than that after you subtract taxes, business expenses and operating costs, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly couldn’t live on that little money all by myself, much less with any kind of family to take care.

So yeah, she’s making something. But that something is amount to relatively “nothing.” It’s barely enough to survive and exist on.

And in this particular case, this person actually is a single mom with a high-school age child nearing college years. She is barely making enough to keep them fed with a roof over their heads; forget about any kind of money for college.

Plus, at 50 hours a week, she doesn’t have any time left to do much of anything else, let alone market or work with other clients to increase her income.

There are other things we all have to do in life besides working in our business—things like taking care of kids, grocery shopping, helping with homework, spending time with our husbands or boyfriends, exercising… um, SLEEPING.

Again, I don’t know about you, but I am a mere mortal. I’m just not going to have a lot of time and energy left to do much of anything else in my business after a 50 hour work week with one client.

Even if technically there are more hours left in the day, I’ve still got a life to live, responsibilities to take care and a finite amount of energy with which to do it all.

As you can see, this isn’t a healthy situation in any way, shape or form. It’s certainly not a business situation as she recognizes.

I can hear some folks out there saying, “Well, she isn’t charging enough! If she would just raise her rates, all her problems would be solved!”

No, not actually.

Because a) she’d still have all her eggs in one basket; b) she’d still be working in what amounts to basically an under-the-table job; and c) she’d still have no extra time and space for any kind of growth or business development.

Success is not success unless you are both making money (and by money, I mean MONEY!) and are profiting in terms of also having the extra time and freedom to enjoy it.

Maybe you’ve got the inside track, but I charge what amounts to roughly $75-85+ an hour and even I would be hard-pressed to easily find clients willing to pay $15,000 for 200 hours of administrative support a month.

And not that I would ever advocate this as an adequate, sustainable professional fee, but even if she was only charging as little as $20/hr, that’s still $4000 a month. While there are clients in the world who can afford that, how many of those kind of clients is she (or any Administrative Consultant) realistically going to find at this stage of her business?

Even if she did, that still doesn’t resolve the problem of working that many hours, having time for a life and doing anything else in or with her business.

When you are operating a business, it shouldn’t be in what amounts to the role of an employee to your clients.

And dammit, you have a right to want more, to want better, for yourself and for your kids and your family!

You have a right to not settle for merely a meager, subsistence income that you have to work your ass off just to get! That’s never what business is about!

This is why, like I say, it’s infinitely easier to find and work with a handful of 20-hour a month clients.

The work is more broken up. It’s easier to give superiorm high quality attention to each relationship. AND you’ll have room to grow or take on other kinds of work, clients and projects in your business if you so choose, not to mention a healthier amount of time left for the rest of your life and to simply BREATHE.

To put some numbers to this, let’s go with a nice middle of the road fee of $50/an hour. If you had 5 clients each on a 20-hour retainer of $1000/mo, that’s $5,000 a month. That’s almost four times the amount she’s making with that one full-time employer-client.

Obviously, that’s before taxes, expenses and operating costs, but you get the idea.

It’s still a very nice, healthy income, much more than what most of us ever made as employees. And she wouldn’t have all her eggs in one basket. And she’d have more time, space and energy to work on developing her business and living life. Because with 5 clients at about 20 hours a month, that equates to roughly 25 hours of client work per week, more or less.

This is why you have to understand your role differently and redefine that role. You will never create the kind of circumstances I’m talking about here by working like an assistant to your clients.

AND, if you get away from selling hours entirely, your potential skyrockets for reaching a six-figure business that doesn’t have you working slave hours to earn it.

Everything Is Amazing (Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!)

I never tire of this segment of Louis C. K. on Conan O’Brien’s show back in 2009 and his gut-bustingly hilarious reminder to be grateful and conscious about the absolutely amazing times we live in.

As Louis C.K. says, all of us should be constantly shouting, “Omigawd!!!! WOW!!!!” for all the extraordinary access to technology and the unlimited possibilities, choice and opportunities we have to captain our own lives.

May you have a warm, fuzzy, deliciously abundant and grateful Thanksgiving!

Dear Danielle: I’ve Lost All Boundaries—Is This Relationship Salvageable?

Dear Danielle: I've Lost All Boundaries—Is This Relationship Salvageable?

Dear Danielle:

I have a client who signed a three month retainer which will end next month. The client is a publicist in Los Angeles. Working with this individual has become a job. I work 50 hours a week. The reason being that I have become an assistant vs. admin support. I like this person and it is clear that she needs help. My challenge is how to steer this so that she’s working within my business model and not the other way around. I’m not making nearly what I should be. I took less to build the relationship. Is there a way to bring this around or should I just thank her for the wonderful experience (while frustrating at times, I’ve learned a lot) and move on? —TK

This is SUCH a great question. It’s a common pitfall for so many Administrative Consultants. I’m sorry you are going through this, but on the positive side of things, as you recognize, it’s a super valuable learning experience.

There are so many business concepts this touches on so I’m just going to enumerate things to consider (not in any specific order). You may have figured most of this out yourself having gone through this now so it may serve more as validation that you’re getting on the right track from this point forward.

1. YOU set your fees, not clients. By allowing clients to dictate what they will pay, you abdicate leadership of your own business. As you have experienced, this sets a very poor precedent in the relationship from there. This client nows acts like and works with you as your employer, not your client.

2. Never bargain with your fees. You never want to make bargains with the very thing that earns your living. All you do then is teach clients to devalue the work and the relationship, and give them the idea that everything is up for negotiation.

And really, it amounts to bribery.

It’s saying, “I am not worth what I’m charging so I need to bribe you with discounts and freebies in order to get you to work with me.”

That’s a horrible, powerless way to start a relationship and attracts all the worst kinds of clients.

Discounting is such a common practice in our industry, but I want to be crystal clear about this: Just because we see it a lot, doesn’t mean it’s working. 😉

There are a whole lotta people out there who are NOT making any money and whose businesses are going nowhere due to this instititutionalized lack of professional self-esteem and putting themselves on sale.

If what you have to offer is valuable and worthwhile, it’s worth charging fully for right from the get-go.

There will be more mutual respect, and your business and relationships will grow more successfully and healthily from there.

There are other–better–ways to start new client relationships and make it easier for them to say yes that don’t entail discounting or otherwise bargaining with your fees.

3. Avoid anchor clients. An anchor client is one who ends up monopolizing all your time and energy. They are called “anchor” clients because they weigh your business down and keep it from going (and growing) anywhere.

It doesn’t help that we’ve got virtual assistant training programs teaching folks that these kinds of clients who hire them for 40, 60 or more hours a month are the bee’s knees.

If you are someone who is only doing this work as a side income and more of a hobby, then that’s fine and dandy.

But it absolutely does not work at all for those who are trying to build a real business that earns a real, full-time income (and more!) that they can actually live on.

That’s because working with those kind of clients doesn’t leave you the room or energy to work with others and grow your business.

I can’t tell you how many people in our industry I personally know who are struggling because they are working like full-time assistants to their clients.

They aren’t making enough money to live on and they barely have any time to think or do anything else.

They’re definitely not living the freedom and choice-filled life of the self-employed they dreamed of when they first started.

If you have read my blog for long, you’ll frequently see me referring to this as “operating and working with clients like an assistant in ways that aren’t sustainable and don’t give your business room to grow.”

A good rule of thumb is that no one client should make up more than 20% of your business.

If you are working with one client for 40-50 hours a month, you’ve got yourself an anchor client who is probably making up 75% or more of your entire business.

You aren’t making the kind of money you want and need, yet you haven’t given yourself room to work with anyone else.

And what happens if that client says bye-bye? There goes almost all (if not all) of your entire income.

On top of things, you’ve been so busy working with this one client, you haven’t had any time to market your business to keep those prospective client pipelines open. Not that you had any room to take on new clients anyway.

Quite the dilemma and not a good place to be, right? So this is what you do…

4. Recognize when what a client really needs IS an employee. As you’ve stated, this has become a job and it’s time to let this client know that what she really needs is an employee, one who can be solely dedicated to that level of workload.

You want to always remember (and tell this to clients, too) that you provide strategic support which is an alternative to employees, not a substitute or replacement for them. That means there is necessarily going to be a difference in when and how you work together as well as what work you take on (and what you don’t).

There are going to be many clients and many workloads this simply isn’t a fit for–and isn’t supposed to be.

There are a lot of people out there who just aren’t going to understand this (sometimes folks have to be a little further along in their business for certain things to make sense), but I gotta say it anyway: When a client starts needing you for more than 20-30 hours a month (much less per week), what they really need is an employee.

Because once you start getting into those kind of hours for one client, the work starts to require more constant, daily monitoring and it overwhelms everything else. And that is a condition that will not only lead to burn-out and keep you chained to your desk every day, more importantly, it will limit your ability to work with others and deprive you of the “space” you need to move around easily in the work and work on your business. Daily on-demand work causes crowding which also leads to poor performance and inconsistent delivery.

The more profitable, sustainable model that also allows you to keep the higher value, one-on-one, true partnering relationship is to work with a few retained clients whose individual workloads don’t exceed 20-30 hours a month.

It’s a much easier business to manage, it gives you space and leaves room to grow and offer additional services and project work. In that model (and as long as you are also charging properly), it only takes a handful of clients to do well financially. And because you have “space,” you can supplement your lines of business in many different ways.

5. YOU need to set the parameters and the definitions. This is where I’m always saying that being an administrative expert and being an assistant are not one and the same thing. And if you’re a business owner, you aren’t anyone’s assistant.

What I want those two statements to do is help people get conscious and intentionally define their role. You can be an administrative expert without having to be anyone’s assistant. Problem is most of the information you get in the VA industry today is telling people that they have to be assistants. And that’s not a new paradigm whatsoever. It’s just a different name for the same old thing:  employee.

When you get clear about that, you understand that your value isn’t in being and doing everything for that client. You CAN focus on just the administrative support in your clients’ businesses without being an assistant and instead being an administrative expert. If you want to also be an assistant, that’s up to you, and like I say, they aren’t one and the same thing. You get to choose, but understand this—your value isn’t dependent upon also being an assistant. It’s all in how YOU define the work and your role in your business.

Likewise,  you need to define what administrative support is. And the reason this is important is because so many people are giving everything away under the administrative support umbrella.

So you want to define what kind of work is administrative support and what work logically falls into other categories of business.

This will not only help you define parameters, making things more manageable and leaving you room to grow with that client as well as others, but you also create additional revenue sources by charging separately for those things that don’t fall under the administrative support umbrella.

Obviously, I can’t say one way or the other if this is a salvageable relationship. I can tell you, though, that once you’ve spoiled a client and allowed them to have expectations that you can’t sustain and that keep your business from growing, it’s often really difficult to wean them off those things.

As you grow and your standards change and improve, always expect that you may lose some clients. It’s just natural that you will outgrow some of them.

If it’s a relationship you’d like to try to keep, all you can do is be open, honest and direct about the changes that must take place in your business and how you work together in order for it to grow.

Let the client know that you hope she will come with you. But don’t be invested in the outcome beyond that.

If she chooses to come with you and accept the adjustments you need to make, great! You can now move forward on more mutually beneficial footing.

If not, it just leaves you room for more ideal clients to come into your business.

UPDATE: Read Part 2 of this post here:  How Working More Hours Can Mean Less Money

Assembly Lines Are for Cars, Not People

Assembly Lines Are for Cars, Not People

I watched a documentary over the weekend called “Unforgotten: 25 Years After Willowbrook.” Willowbrook was a state institution on Staten Island in New York where mentally and physically handicapped children were warehoused up until 1987.

The conditions and abuses were deplorable, and an inexperienced local reporter by the name of Geraldo Rivera did an expose which ultimately (thankfully!) got the place shut down.

Geraldo Rivera went on to become one of our most well-known reporters and journalists in the U.S. He seems to be the butt of some jokes these days, but he said something in this documentary I thought was so wise. It struck me profoundly as it really correlates with what we Administrative Consultants do as administrative partners to our clients.

He said:

“You can’t treat humans like dogs in a kennel. There is no place to mass produce care, compassion and concern for people. It is impossible. It is fundamentally unsound. The assembly line works for cars. It does not work for people. People need humanity. They need the spirit of compassion. They need to be loved. They need to be able to fulfill their potential, whatever their potential is… however limited or infinite their potential might be. They need the opportunity to realize human potential.”

While he was talking about those poor souls at Willowbrook, to me it’s really a statement about humanity overall.

Business doesn’t need less humanity, it needs MORE of it, and as Administrative Consultants, that’s really the spirit we embody.

I was musing about all this due to a conversation we were having in our ACA community about subcontracting. There are many in our industry using subcontractors in an assembly line kind of way. They think, “Oh, I’ll just open a business and hire all these other people to do the work.”

They just don’t get it at all. You can’t outsource a relationship, and you can’t run an assembly-line style business that resembles anything like a true relationship.

I mean, hey, if that’s the business they want to run, that’s certainly their right and prerogative. There are all kinds of customers for everything in this world of ours.

But it in no way, shape or form resembles or is the same thing as a personal, one-on-one, ongoing partnering relationship of administrative support.

There’s a big difference between having employees and/or other independent professionals who support YOU in your business and merely farming out all the work to subcontractors in an impersonal, transactional, assembly-line basis.

A chasm of difference, in fact.

Value Is Not a Two-for-One Sale

You Are Not on Sale

When we talk about and use the term “value,” we aren’t talking about bargains and two-for-one sales.

Value is about providing your expertise in a way and at a level that supports the big picture goals, objectives and needs of your client and his/her business.

Client’s don’t hire us for the fun of it or because they have money burning a hole in their pockets or simply for the tasks. They hire us because they have an end-goal in mind, a purpose and somewhere they are trying to get to.

Our work is our expertise, and we should quite rightly have great pride and respect for it—those who do are MUCH better service providers.

But our value is never about our work. Clients hire us because our work and expertise helps them accomplish something or get somewhere they are striving for.

Always get to the “why.” Why do they need the work or support? What goal, objective, ideal or aspiration is it in support of? What challenge are they trying to solve? What problem or pain are they trying to get relief from?

THAT’S where your value is and what your work and expertise is all about.

Clients Are Responsible for their Own Success

Just because what we do as administrative experts helps clients and gives them more opportunity and ability to increase their income, that doesn’t mean we are responsible for whether that happens or not.

While we are definitely passionate about our work and how it helps them move forward and gives them back more time, space and energy that ultimately can mean the difference in increasing their incomes, clients are still always responsible for their own businesses, their own success and their own earning.

You all get that, right?

Dear Danielle: What Is “the Work?”

Dear Danielle:

I am just starting my administrative support business.  I am networking and setting things up, but I have a question (hope it does not sound silly)… If you could, please list and/or explain some of the duties/work you in real terms. I hear everyone talk about “the work,” but I want to know the details. What kinds of things do people hire you to do? —AC

Not a silly question at all. Although I can’t say it’s the easiest to answer.

That’s because the administrative support that one Administrative Consultant provides to her clients can be completely different from what another Administrative Consultant provides.

It’s impossible to create any kind of comprehensive list because the work we do is so much more than that. More importantly, there’s no way to do that because no two clients, businesses and professions are the same. There might be some general similarities and overlap, but overall “the work” all depends on the clients, the industry they are in, the work they do and what their goals, objectives and challenges are.

So, like me, for instance, I work with attorneys and business consultants. HUGE amounts of document work involved in both. I also have a lot of contact with their clients in various capacities, such as interviewing, doing intakes, making calls… I also have to interact with the courts, JAs and use the various filing systems. That’s just the teeniest tip of the iceberg.

What I do for my clients, given the professions they are in, is VERY different from the work of an Administrative Consultant who, for example, works with more online-based business owners. Those two markets do completely different things, have completely different interests and motivations, and the work, therefore, is vastly different.

Instead of trying to identify “the work” in only the most general sense, I would instead have you look at things from a different perspective.

1 You can’t be in business to do everything. So YOU have to define what you are in business to do. How I look at things is that administrative support is a skill, expertise and specialty all its own. As a business owner, I am not anyone’s assistant, personal valet or gopher. I am in business to provide administrative support to clients who need that expertise in their business.

2. Once you know what you are in business to do, you will have a better idea and focus about the kind of work you provide for clients. But that’s not the end of the story…

3. You also want to define what administrative support means to you. The best way I have to explain administrative support is that it is the collection of ongoing tasks, functions and roles that keep a business organized, running smoothly and moving forward. Where a lot of people get confused is thinking that administrative work is simply paperwork.

And administrative support isn’t just about administration (the back-end running of the business). Administration is only one area of a business where administrative support is provided. Administrative support encompasses work in ALL four areas of a business–administration, business development, marketing and networking, and working with clients.

Take a look at the quick video below and see if that doesn’t help you understand a bit better.

4. You also want to define a target market. For the same reason that you can’t be in business to do anything and everything, it is also impossible to try to work with anyone and everyone and create any kind of unique, meaningful, resonate and compelling message at the same time.

As Seth Godin says, “You can be a wandering generality or a meaningful specific.” Once you know who it is you are intending to work with, that right there is going to hugely allow you to identify and define “the work” you want to do with and for clients and separate it from different categories of project work you may want to charge separately for.

(And by the way, when you work with a very specific target market, the work and running your business becomes INFINITELY easier.)

5. Beyond all that, EVERYTHING depends on the consultation. Everything. You can’t begin to know how to support someone or what work is involved until you have spoken at length to the client to learn more about them, their business, their values, goals and the challenges they face.

If you want to get REALLY good at doing consultations and know EXACTLY how to proceed with them (what to talk about when, questions to ask, how to ask, what to look for, etc.), then I highly recommend you get my Client Consultation Process, “Breaking the Ice (GDE-03).” It covers everything from before, during and how to follow-up afterward.

You See What’s Happened Here, Right?

Askimet is a fantastic little service that helps block and prevent spam on blog comments. It’s been around for years with millions of happy users.

Up until now, it was offered for free. But as with most businesses, especially one that provides such a great, convenient, easy to use service, Askimet recently decided to start charging.

And people are up in arms.

Gee, go figure. Why on earth would a… um…. business charge for its services?

This attitude completely baffles me. In one comment I read, the person thought it was “outrageous.”

Come on, people. Why on earth do you expect a business to keep giving away their stuff for free? Do you honestly think the world revolves around you and that they were put on this earth to subsidize your life and your business without compensation of any kind? Oh brother.

It’s so hypocritical… you expect people to pay you for your services and products, but as soon as someone else does the same thing, what they want to charge is “outrageous?”

That kind of hypocrisy keeps you out of alignment with integrity. It’s also a form of poverty mentality. People who are successful (or want to be) don’t whine about nickels and dimes, and they certainly don’t expect others to work for free.

At $5 a month for a single site license, there’s nothing outrageous about it at all. It’s quite reasonable, in fact. If you have 10 sites,  it goes up to $80 a month. Still very reasonable if you ask me considering the problems it prevents from spam and all the lost hours it saves us in dealing with those issues.

They have additional multi-site licenses in increments of 25, 50 and 100 on up. Sure, if you have that many sites, it can get spendy. But just because you have a million sites doesn’t mean they should be giving their service away for free.

More important, though, is the business lesson here. You see what’s happened, don’t you?

Askimet has trained its customers to devalue the service and expect it for free. For years they have spoiled people by providing a valuable service for absolutely nothing. And like spoiled little babies, these people are outraged now that Askimet has the audacity to actually expect to be paid.

This is a common tactic of technology companies. Give the product away for free in beta to build a large user base. Let the users identify the kinks so you can work them out. Then, once you have a really fantastic product with a huge customer base of people who can’t live without it, start charging for it. But as you can see from the uproar, there is a huge drawback to that strategy.

I think they should have been charging right from the start. Then they wouldn’t have to deal with this ugly “free” expectation they themselves have created. You can do yourself a favor by learning from their lesson.

But they are playing a commodity numbers game that you as a service provider can’t match.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free.”

This is exactly what’s going on here and you want to avoid that in your business. If what you have to offer is worthwhile and of value, then it’s valuable and worthwhile enough to charge for right from the get go.

Don’t give away freebies and discounts in the hopes that it will get you more work. All that does it attract freebie seekers and train clients to disrespect you and devalue what you have to offer.

If you train them to expect it for free or cheap, you’ll have one helluva time getting them out of that mindset once you realize you can’t make a living on “free” and “cheap.”