When close friends or family members have a small concern, I am usually quick to offer a bit of advice. Like a great friend, I do care about them and am usually eager to help if they ask.
However there is a fine line between people seeking true assistance and those taking advantage of me. Yep, friends and family are typically the quickest to do so by expecting more and more. The fact that they may not deliberately or consciously know they are doing it does not change the fact that they do. Then, when I cut them off, they get pissed at ME!
Therefore I am writing this post so that I can refer others to it as needed. In fact, perhaps this post can be the voice for other professionals who may lack the courage to just say…
You see, since the early 1990’s I have attracted four main types of people and I’d like to introduce you to each of them:
TYPE #1: “I just like free things because they are cool”.
TYPE #2: “I never talk to her but I need something, so I’ll give her a call, shoot the shit for a bit, and then ask for a hand-out”.
TYPE #3: “I bet she, or her husband or kids would like the services I provide, so I will ask her to trade or barter her services for mine”.
TYPE #4: “I realize she has a vast amount of knowledge and skills. I also understand she prices her services in the range of her value, just as any other professional does. I have no problem paying these prices because I recognize the value that this service can bring into my life”.
Let me digress for a bit…
I entered my forensic career internationally on June 1, 1987. I was a young adult who was trying to break into the male-dominated field of law enforcement as a case consultant, expert witness, and trainer. Because of this, nobody would hire me without references.
So, in this case, I had something of value to give but I also truly needed something of value in return. So for 5 years I worked 100% for free and ended up with dozens of reference letters from law enforcement agencies around the country. Obviously that trade made sense because it launched the rest of my career.
Then in 1994, a so-called “marketing guru” said that I should give away a * unique * freebie on my website to invoke more business from the private sector since most of my work was government and business entities. This “guru” said I was missing out on a whole population.
So, that’s what I did.
From 1994 – 1999, I offered a FREE personality snapshot on my website. This was fondly called a “quickie” and was based on my professional analysis of their handwriting. It truly was free – no catch – no newsletter sign-ups or any other requirement other than to submit their handwriting to me.
During those 5 years, I performed 2,103 personality snapshots. That’s over 35 each month (that’s over 1 per day). My regular price for these at that time was $10 each. So in essence, in 5 years, I gave away over $21,000 in professional value.
When I returned their results via email, they were given a 10% discount on a full personality profile (again recommended by the “guru” which was considered the norm during the early-1990s), which at the time was only $99. The only catch was that they had to order it within 7 days or the coupon would expire (create a sense of urgency said the “guru”).
Of those 2,103 people, guess how many took advantage of the discount and upgraded to the full personality profile?
Guess how many replied and said a simple “Thank you?”
Same answer for both…
So, to be clear, I gave away over 250 hours of work and over $21,000 and got absolutely nothing in return, not even a simple thank you.
That is not a win-win or mutually-beneficial exchange! One person took all (them), and one person gave all (me).
That is when I stopped working for free unless it benefited me or my business in such a way that it was a no-brainer (just like the reference letters in 1987).
Now fast forward to the early 2000’s.
When I moved back to my home state of Arizona, I needed to restart or relaunch my business in a new city. Once again, bartering and flat-out working for free was a smart move – but only sometimes! In doing so, I made great connections, built great relationships that are still ongoing, and acquired actual paid clients. Of course, not every one of these “barter or free ventures” was sensible. The ones that weren’t, were “one and done”.
Now, a small digression again…
Between 2009 – 2017 something else all-too-frequently occurred.
While on a date with my husband, or hanging out with my adult children, someone (usually friends) would approach me and ask me to analyze their handwriting or the writing of someone who was with them. I know this was not done out of ill-intention; however, it really did offend me for two reasons:
I am a type A personality and workaholic – I work about 126 hours per week on average. On the extremely rare occasion that I am on personal time, please do not be inconsiderate and expect me to work; and…
What makes you think I even want to analyze you? I mean, I certainly do not need the practice (okay, that was somewhat wit but also true)
It had become soooooo irritating to me that I started to cancel date night, and stopped hanging out in public with my kids. I also started developing resentment toward others, and started to hate the career I dedicated my life to, and have loved unconditionally for decades.
In fact, one day I had a slight emotional breakdown due to the stress of this occurring sooooo often. I poured a very large glass of wine and said to my husband, “You know, if I did not know this science, or was terrible at it, nobody would ask me for free shit all the time”.
Being the supportive guy he is, he said, “Well, it’s because you make it look easy. But if it’s affecting you that badly, do something about it”.
So I did…. I had a mobile app developed. This mobile app is not for people who are serious, but it IS for those mentioned above. Having this app available has saved me a TON of headaches and irritation. Yes there are “bad” reviews but that’s because they are those who want the true scientific results for little or nothing. However for those who are serious about having a professional help them, there are options.
How do I know if they are serious or not?
The answer is simple. They either become a paying client or they say something like…
“I just think it’s cool”, “I find it fascinating”, etc.
If they say that, I give them this business card…
If they are serious, I give them this business card so they can schedule or order accordingly. So far each “serious” individual has become a paid client, without question.
After having to do this to the “free-seekers” about 10 times (often to the same “repeat offenders”), it started to work remarkably well. Yet through it all, I have learned some valuable lessons including, but definitely not limited to:
Those 2,103 personality snapshots went to people who were much like my family members and friends – asking for and / or expecting “freebies”. To me, it clearly shows that they did not find value in my skill or career.
I questioned my own self-worth – wondering if it was so low that I allowed this to go on for so long. I wondered, “if I don’t see my own value after all of that, how could I expect anyone else to?”
As an interesting experiment, I have kept track of how many of those business cards I have handed out and have followed up with them just to see if they ever downloaded the app. Want to venture a guess? You’re right… ZERO.
Yep, these people are just like those 2,103 others only this time, I don’t give a damn because I am no longer giving away my skills, knowledge, time, or… value.
People tend to only value what they pay for or invest in.
In my situation, if someone truly has a need to have a handwriting sample analyzed – maybe to assess for suicidal tendencies, for matchmaking, hiring, or to do a pre-termination violence assessment – they will pay for it because they know it’s value.
If people are truly curious about what I would have said during the “personality snapshot” that they expected for free during my date nights, they would download either the free or the one-time $2.99 version of my app.
* Guess how many have bothered to download it at the time of this post?
* Guess how many have purchased the $2.99 (one-time, lifetime cost)?
Yep… you guessed it… same answer for both. That repeatedly verifies that I did the right thing. Had I not had this app developed, I may have continued to waste more of my valuable time, effort, and money on “coolness” and “intrigue”.
People want the solution but don’t want to do the work. People want the professionals to “fix it” yet don’t want to pay for it.
That leads me to this…
Many in the business of spiritual products or services will say, “I work for love donations” as if that makes them sound modest or like a modern-day version of Mahatma Gandhi.
Unless they are 100% debt-free and have absolutely no living expenses, that sounds like pure “100% phooey” to me. But let’s say that’s true… that they do really only work for love donations… then they must not be making enough with their “gifts” and therefore need a “regular j.o.b.”.
Without passing judgement, let me ask you… what does that say about their value – either to themselves or others?
Bottom line, in my decades of experience, many people walking in the spiritual path typically do not like to pay for anything and are some of the most financially-lacking people I have ever come across. They do not want to pay for advertising, yet complain they have no clients. They do not want to pay for services, so they expect the other person to agree to a barter. I have amazing friends who work in this field and I love them. They are a step-above a vast majority so I will refer others because I know their value. And yes, I too have done a lot of work in the spiritual circles too but my mindset was always “this is business – pure and simple”.
See the pattern?
I know this may shock you but, in case you hadn’t noticed, you are not the Son of Man and you do live in a monetary society, like it or not.
If you pay attention to the motivational speaker, Jim Rohn’s, comment “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”, then hanging out with financially-struggling people will certainly put you on the fast train toward financial struggles as well.
Especially in the spiritual context of careers, we have to be careful not to get sucked into the you should not charge people if you are truly spiritual theory. Of course, there is obviously nothing wrong with that concept especially if one does want to make money.
Unfortunately for me, bartering and working for free does not pay my bills.
If you find yourself stuck in that “free is beautiful” mindset, this may help:
Look at the commonalities of the 5 people you are spending the most time with. Are they always looking for handouts, shopping at Goodwill because they have to (who doesn’t like a random thrift experience for fun?), always in a negative “victim” mindset, talking about having no money, OR are they happy, financially successful, and assertive in pursuing their passions?
When I look back to my most financially-low times, the 5 people were definitely in the doghouse financially too. Yet, when I looked back at the most successful, achievement-oriented, financially-stable times, the 5 people matched that vibe as well.
So, if you want to go from free and bartering to financially independent I recommend:
Looking at your own money-mindset. Are you saying to the Universe, “Will work for free”? If so, you will very likely attract only those clients who will keep you working for free. After all, God / the Universe wants to give you what you want.
Now you may be wondering… is bartering EVER okay?
If you are starting a business, or trying to launch into a second career, or build a portfolio of web designs or photography, working for free or bartering may be perfect for you, just as it was for me back in 1987.
If you truly do want something that the other person wants, and you would have purchased it anyway, by all means… go for it.
But if you are bartering because you don’t want to offend someone or for a reason that is not a “definite need” in your life, I highly recommend that you say “NO” (nicely of course). Oh and never barter or do things for free just because they are family or friends. Any entrepreneur you ask will likely agree that your paid clients do not usually come from family or friends.
So, if you want to stop working for free and barter, start by making a commitment – a promise to yourself – that you will stop. However, when you do – as with any major change you are going to make – be prepared that your previous and often chronic “free seekers” may put up resistance. They may think it is “only a phase” or you are “having a bad day”, and if you stick to your commitment, they will likely get mad at you!
If this occurs, you will likely start feeling guilty and question your decision. Stick to your guns (they’ll likely get over it eventually) but also prepare for a test from God / the Universe.
For example, I make all major business changes on my business anniversary date of June 1st. Several years ago when I decided to stop bartering entirely, within that week, I had three people ask if I’d be willing to barter. I had to say “no” to each of them without hesitation because otherwise the God / the Universe would know I was not being accountable to my own value, and was essentially breaking the promise I made to myself.
No “case-by-case” basis either because that is like making an excuse for yourself to barter. To God / the Universe it’s one and the same; you are either serious about it or you are not – it really is that simple.
So, after gracefully turning down those last 3 offers, within the following month, I had taken on 6 more fully-paid clients. Yes, I have had to say “no” to many requests and expectations of free and / or bartering offers from family, friends, and mere acquaintances. When I say “no” they think I’m joking because we are friends or family. If they are reading this and are still in doubt, here is my final answer… nope, I’m really not joking.
*** IF YOU STILL REALLY WANT TO BARTER WITH ME ***
I have talked with my husband and adult children in detail as to what we would barter for.
Here is the list:
My daughter: new kitchen cabinets, new living room floor tile or carpet.
My son: pay off his brand new car.
My husband and I: pay off our two brand new cars and my $150K student loan.
If you can do any of those, we will gladly barter. If you can’t, we won’t – simply because we do not need or want anything else.
Stick to your own value because, when you pay for products and services, you are telling the professional that you respect his or her work.
When someone pays you for your products or services, they are telling you that they respect you and your work.
QUICK QUESTION: When was the last time you bartered with your doctor, dentist, lawyer, plumber, landlord, utility company, cell phone provider, mechanic, or any other professional?
Yeah, didn’t think so.
Just like them, I am a professional.
Just like them, I get paid for my work.
Just like them, I am not free, available for barter, or cheap.
Just like them, I and my knowledge and skills are valuable.
If you are looking for a few graceful ways to say “no”, Marie Forleo’s video may help…
P.S. I only work with people who are willing to pay for my services. If someone pays and then flakes, there are no refunds. Instead the money is donated on their behalf.