Not too long ago I ran a free online training event for coaches, consultants and freelancers. I introduced and opened up spaces to my big ticket mentoring program, Trailblazer in Demand during this event.
Within one day, I received an email from a friend of mine. She’s absolute gem of a lady and we connected over our mutual love for wellness a year or so ago. We actually did a course together. She said (not the full email as it was quite lengthy):
I LOVED (as always your webinars) and it was so good that you shared that you wanted to pull the plug (many times). I have been feeling this too. I can never get real engagement or that money and energy exchange and it is sooo heartbreaking. I feel like I am pushing shit up a hill.
In my first year of business I have made $535 from my one event but have spent over $20k and this year haven’t made a cent.
If you ever have one spot available for your program I would greatly appreciate it and need it and I am ready to show up 100%….
I want to be high in demand, and I want to create high demand products because I don’t want to feel like [confidential] isn’t making a difference in peoples lives but I am in hiding mode and very much so don’t feel like I am head to lead.
So my question to you is what DO I need to really work on? I just want to work with you because you cut through the crap and I need someone to push me out of my comfort zone and also someone to be accountable to.
I was like great, would love to help you out! I encouraged her to book in a discovery call using the booking calendar. In this process there is a little questionnaire to complete and in it she said:
What outcome are you looking for from our discovery call?
That you do take me on as a probono client. I’m ready I need the steps that’s going to get me there.
I was absolutely floored.
She wants to commit 100% to her dream, knows she needs help but isn’t willing to pay for it?
Now don’t get me wrong: I still love this lady. She really does have a heart of gold and is just going through a tough time now. I’m positive she didn’t think this request would upset me in any way.
But I won’t deny that I was a little bit offended by this.
Two years ago I would have given in and said yes. I would have made excuses to myself: ‘She can’t afford it, maybe I’m too expensive? One free client won’t hurt, surely?’
But not today.
I pour tremendous effort, time and energy into my mentoring. Trailblazer In Demand is a product of over 2 years of constant tweaking, countless educational pursuits and trial and error. I take my client’s successes very personally (too much if I’m honest – I’m working on it) which sees me spends extra time researching their industries and even sourcing possible connections for them. I don’t need to do this but I do. I like to.
Working with me isn’t just about building your business skills. It’s about committing to your dream. There are many benefits that aren’t easy to explain – like the increased confidence in yourself and in your ability to run a business as my previous client Bec told me. She even noted that her partner, who was very reluctant about Bec working with me initially, has noticed a huge positive change in her. This is just one benefit that is worth more than what I charge.
I’m not writing this to be arrogant. I’m writing this to explain that I believe and truly value my service. And I deserve to be paid for this.
Just like you do.
I wrote back:
I just saw your responses to the questionnaire. Thanks for taking the time to do that.
I have to be honest with you straight up, as maybe I have misinterpreted your first email: I’m not taking on pro-bono clients. I believe my services are worth the price and I have poured tremendous effort into not only preparing this, but in delivering this work. Just like you do in your business, I deserve to be paid for my work.
If you want to commit fully, then let’s chat tomorrow.
Talk soon x
I knew this incident was a lesson in disguise. I’m sure you’ve had at least one experience of someone asking to work with you for free. It has really highlighted how important it is to value ourselves and our businesses. If you want to take on clients for free, be very clear on why that is. The reasons I would take on clients for free would be:
- I have just started out and need practice and/or testimonials.
- I’m beta testing a new program.
- I factored in a free client which will be selected based on a scholarship.
- There was a mutual exchange where I got something of equal value in return.
This also caused me to reflect on collaboration. I have asked for free things in the past – but always in exchange for something. For example, Monika took photos for me in exchange for promotion. She needed to build her portfolio so was quite happy to do this. I wanted to give her a little more so I invited her to be a bonus for my clients – I would pay her to take photos of my clients. I got stacks of photos to use on my site, she got clients without much work on her behalf. And I got happy clients. It was a win-win. Collaboration is a different topic all together, which deserves its own post (coming soon).
Moving forward, my relationship with this lady hasn’t changed. I still think she’s one of the most big hearted genuine person going around. And though that made the initial ‘no’ tough (it’s hard saying no to friends and people you really respect – especially when they are struggling), it was a testament to how far I’ve come as a business woman and a person to be able to hold my ground. I only work with the ladies who are 100% committed to doing what it takes to build their dream business. That means an investment in me – in showing up and doing everything it takes. Is this the approach you have for your clients?
Have you taken on clients for free? Do you field questions like this regularly? Share your stories below.
A final thought: I implore you to set firm boundaries around this. You are worth every penny. Every damn penny my friend.