You do not have because you do not ask. And when you ask, you lack the business intelligence to phrase your questions correct.

Caution: This article is written for the sole purpose of sharing thoughts and ideas on free service requests. It is not meant to target clients who ask for free services.

Once Upon A ‘Free’ Girl

I’ve been there.

The girl whose services got volunteered by others to others. The one who gave free motivational talks. Free emceeing services. Free content creation. The free team building coach. Not because I wanted to. But because my clients claimed they did not budget for my services. Even though they needed my services. Badly.

This is how the story went. I got a call from a friend preparing an event.

“I have a business event coming up soon. And I need an emcee. The entry fee is rather low so I can’t afford to pay you. Please come and do it for me.”

It Happens

I bet you know someone who always seems to land clients who have ‘no budget’ for their kind of service. They have endless events on their calendars. But all they earn is ‘exposure’, and not a cent more.

There’s nothing wrong with offering your services for free.

But if this is your main hustle, you may want to reconsider your charitable acts. Otherwise, you will close shop before your first year in business.

And sink the hellhole of debts.

I know that story better. And I don’t want you heading that way. Hence this article.

The 5 Business Intelligence Questions

Ask before you say I do.

So, the next time your client asks you to ‘volunteer’ a service you believe you should get paid for, ask them these five questions. Remember to maintain a calm but bold heart.

The questions sure sound mean. But you have a business to tend and without money, you will end up in the streets.

Question 1: How often will you require my services, for free?

The question allows your client to realize that you know you offered them free service before. So now it’s time to find out if the event has a recurring potential. And if the client intends to work with you on a regular basis. If they want to grow with you.

If they ask for one more favour, do the math and find out if you can afford the expenses involved to give them your best.

You are looking at transport; public versus private. You also need time to prepare content to present at the event. You may also need make-up. Say, a new pair of shoes or hairstyle.

This is important especially if your business is struggling to furnish the kind of picture you want to put in public for your services.

If there’s potential for regular work, say monthly, go to question 2.

Question 2: Would you be willing to pay (state your fee) for my services if you were in a position to?

The aim here is to establish their stand on paying for your services. Do they believe your services are worth paying for or do they subscribe to the free service news?

You will be surprised what some people feel about paying an emcee. Especially if the service provider is not a public figure.

All you need for this question is a Yes, or No.

Yes, they do. But they are cash trapped. Or No, they don’t but they can pay someone more selfie-worthy. If they could reach them.

If the client beats about the bush, chances are they prefer a free service. From you.

Whether it’s for lack of appreciation or budget shortcomings, I will let you investigate that on your own. Then decide whether the conversation is worth having or not.

Question 3: At what point in your business do you think you will be able to pay for my services?

If the client answers Yes to the previous question, give them a chance. More like a challenge to think smart. To evaluate their current income from the event and figure out how much more they need to make to factor in your services.

So they could say,

“If I can make x amount of money from this event then I will be in a position to pay you.”

So their new question becomes how to make the target figure and earn your services.

A willing client goes out of their way to restructure their budget. They may need to trim some expenses here and there. Negotiating for better pricing with all their service providers, you included. This willingness is worth investing your services in!

Question 4: How many more free-serviced events will you need to afford my services?

A determined business owner lives and breathes planning. They set targets and attach timelines to them.

This is what you are asking your client to do.

Sure they may not have enough money right away to pay for your services. But they should not expect you to keep offering free services while they stash away the profits. Not even in the case of partnership.

They may need to change their mode of advertising, review their event’s entry fee or seek partnerships with like-minded businesses over the next 2 or 3 events. It’s an audacious step on their side. One demanding that they hit the target in a set time. Then write you a cheque for the fourth event and all others following.

Question 5: If you cannot afford my service fee by the set timeline, what then?

This is all about commitment. Making the conversation tricky. No one has a straight answer to it. At least not one I have dealt with.

A commitment question helps you separate the wheat from the chaff. Click To Tweet

Some clients prefer to sneak through the back door, ignoring your calls, if they cannot reach their target income by the set timeline.

It’s sickening. Immature actually.

Others choose the use-and-dump loop. Begging for free services and detaching from the service providers after the second use. And while this seems to favour them for a while, negative word travels fast in the service industry. They soon find themselves alone in the gutters. Or recycling poor talent. Leading to the collapse of their businesses.

But mature clients negotiate for compensation. Even if it comes to you at a later date.

In Conclusion

If you find a client willing to go through these questions with an honest heart, negotiate for terms favouring both of you. And put the details on paper. Then pour every ounce of effort into the event to make it profitable. From sharing their work on social media to telling everyone who cares to listen about it. It works!

When you master these five questions, you will always land paying clients. Clients who will demand to keep you. And share the gospel of your services far and wide. As you have done theirs. For in such intelligent business questions there is no law!

People who care always share!

Magdalene Kamau

Also known as My_Darling, is a ghostwriter, business mentor and motivational speaker who advocates for turning talents and passions into products of service to others while making a profit while at it.

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