Guest post By Jan Verhoeff
We’ve all been there, and we don’t want to go back. There’s a solution to this problem. It might be time to take the problem and find a solution, FAST… But let’s start off with this little story to help you understand –
“No wonder she’s always broke, she’s as dumb as a box of rocks!” the young man on my left was talking about the woman who had just walked away after asking if she could borrow money from him. He’d told her no. She bummed a cigarette and asked him to light it, before she walked down the sidewalk, her high heels clicking against the concrete. “Every time I come here, she asks me if she can borrow money. I know she works for an attorney on the top floor,” he continued discussing the girl with his friend.
He wasn’t talking to me.
“Is she the one you were talking about earlier?” His buddy sneered at him.
“Yeah, she puts out whenever I show up. Never charges, but she’s always borrowing money.” He chuckled deeply, shaking his head and continuing to regard the young woman with no respect.
His buddy lit up, “You’re such a total jerk. You take her fruit, pay her nothing and jeer at her as if she’s stupid. She’s just being nice to you. She’s just too nice to say no. Meanwhile you’re stealing her services, and treating her badly. She’s a smart woman. Too smart to be broke, but she’s just too darned nice to tell you to go screw a blender!”
The two men were dressed well, I didn’t know their names, but I did know them from working in the law office upstairs. The woman they spoke of was a receptionist in the main office. I didn’t know her well either, but she was very nice. She was a sweet woman who had obviously been taken advantage of too many times.
This scene plays out in life all too often. As a business owner, I know many who have been caught up in the process, worrying about how to pay the bills, yet they frequently gave away information, with no thought of how they would be compensated for the gift of their time, knowledge and efforts. Through the process, I’ve learned one thing… If you’re not making a profit at what you do, you can’t continue doing it.
I want you to read that again:
If you’re not making a profit at what you do, you can’t continue doing it.
As a consultant I’m often invited to answer questions for my clients. They always have one or two questions than need answered, and each question takes time.
The process usually goes something like this:
A client sends an email that says, “Hey, I have a question for you. When you have a moment, if you don’t mind, I can’t figure this out.” (And he tags on a question.)
I usually answer the first question in a response email, if it’s a simple question. (And those first ones always are – simple questions.) Then comes another question. I may even answer that question in another email. But, that question, I’m more likely to note isn’t really a simple question and I’m thinking there’ll be more, and I need to rethink this relationship. So, I’ll add some info in the email, referring the client to my consulting page, with a note that I’d be happy to work with them.
Invariably, there’s another question. I’ve learned that I don’t answer that question. EVER. Because we’ve moved past, “I have a question.” Right into, “I need a consultant for my business.” And as a consultant, I need to be paid for my knowledge.
My response to that question is usually, “We’ve moved beyond a question into consulting, I’d be happy to schedule an appointment for you. My fee for a thirty minute consulting visit is $45. Or for an hour, $75.00 and I’d be happy to give you a proposal and include that fee in the final proposal if you need more time and information than we can go over in an hour. Please let me know a convenient time for our first consulting appointment.”
The client response will be one of two things:
1 – the client will send me a message offering a time when s/he will be available for a consultation and we’ll work through the process of scheduling.
2 – the client will send me a scathing message implying that I’ve been unreasonable and am not someone they choose to work with because I’m not answering their questions for free.
I have to laugh at those who go with number two, because they’ve just implied that I should continue answering their long list of questions without compensation. Their request is unrealistic and would literally put me out of business if I complied.
Yes, some people will be upset when you tell them no, invite them to pay for your services, or restrict their access to your knowledge. Those people don’t respect you and are unworthy of your services. To grow a profitable business you must have boundaries and you must be willing to say no when necessary.
You owe your customers and yourself the ability to make a profit doing what you do, in order to continue sharing your message and growing your business.
Be smart about doing business. The important part of doing business is making a profit so you can continue to do business. So, ask yourself, “Would you rather be nice, or broke?”
You need to know the answer to that question!
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Jan Verhoeff is the Executive Design Officer and a Business Consultant at Denver Web Studio.