‘Bout Free Milk and a Cow

Your Brain CapitalRalph listened patiently as the guy asked his question.

When he was finished, Ralph gave him an excellent answer (“wow, I never thought of that…”.)

When the guy asked Ralph a follow-up, Ralph politely handed the gentleman his card. Then Ralph asked the guy to give him a call on Monday — after the weekend trade show we were attending — about scheduling a meeting. They could discuss contract details then.

The guy took the card and left. Ralph never heard from him.

People Pay Good Money for That

That’s when she told me a story ’bout free milk and a cow,

And she said no huggin’ no kissin’ until I get a wedding vow…

~ Dan Baird, The Georgia Satellites

As a highly paid consultant, Ralph knew the value of his expertise. But more importantly he knew that his clients paid him well for the knowledge that the guy at the trade show wanted Ralph to give him for free.

Knowledge experts make their living by charging for access to them and their expertise. Giving away samples is a great marketing strategy. Constantly giving away free advice is shortchanging your paying clients.

If someone is not willing to pay for your expertise, chances are they aren’t a good fit. The pay-for-access approach of the knowledge expert becomes a pre-qualification tool. If someone doesn’t think what you provide is valuable enough to pay for, then they’re definitely not someone you want to be working with.

Even if you love what you do, it’s still your “work.” It may be fun, and not seem like work, but it’s your livelihood. Giving too much of yourself, especially for free, can quickly lead to burnout.

Free stuff should go to:

  • Charities and nonprofits you care about
  • Side pet projects that you enjoy, but may not bring revenue
  • Existing clients as small freebees — a short call at no charge, for example
  • Family or close friends — just be careful not to be taken advantage of
  • Bartering — trading expertise for expertise
  • Marketing “samples” — in small doses

Freeloaders are not where you want to be wasting your time. It’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to your clients.

Your knowledge and expertise are valuable.

You know that. Your clients know that.

Make sure the freeloaders know it too.