I receive at least three to five requests per week from people who want something from me in exchange for nothing.
They want my advice, they want me to speak at their event, they want me to review something or they want me to meet up for lunch / coffee. I politely decline 90% of these offers because I need to earn a living and pay bills just like the rest of the human population and I also hugely respect my time, my boundaries and my desire to do the things that light me up.
I also politely decline them because I don’t ask people to do anything for free unless I am providing something highly valuable in return.
What Do You Bring to the Table?
I have asked for free things a handful of times in my life and when I’ve done so I’ve always tied the ask to what I can provide in return as well as the resources, tools or opportunities that I can bring to the table. The question I often asked myself was this:
“How I can enhance the experience for the event host, the product creator or the service giver?” [Insert whomever you are asking here.]
I have never asked my team to do work for free (unless they have made an error, in which case they often offer to fix it for free) and I have certainly never reached out to a fellow business person for free advice, free consulting or free services. The moment you begin to ask for free work from providers, you devalue the service they are offering and you generate resentment.
This applies to anyone — think about that friend you know that is good with computers. Any time you ask him/her to fix your computer, for free, with nothing in exchange, you devalue and disrespect them because you are sending the message that their time is unimportant. That it is worthless. That it contains no value.
Instead, offer them something – payment, a gift, a dinner out, etc. so that they feel like their time is valuable and their skills are appreciated. They may tell you that you don’t need to give them anything in exchange, they may offer to do it for free but don’t allow “free” to be your primary expectation.
A Worthwhile Exchange
Merriam-Webster defines “free” as “not costing any money” but to the person whom you are asking, it’s likely costing them other things — time, product, the ability to service a paying customer, their energy, etc. Due to the fact that there is still a cost associated to the ask, the best thing you can do is create an offer that is enticing to the person you are asking. The goal here is to create a worthwhile exchange.
Instead of, “Hey, can you meet me for coffee — I have some business questions for you!” perhaps you may ask instead, “Hey, I have a few business questions for you. I’d love to meet up for coffee and in exchange, I’d love to introduce you to my networking group in the hopes that I can help you get a few referrals.”
Instead of, “Can you speak at my event? We don’t have a budget…” perhaps say, “We’d really love you to speak but unfortunately, we don’t have a budget. However, we’re going to be doing media spots on local television as well as sharing about the event on social media and we’d love to offer you as many opportunities as possible to promote your brand.”
Asking this way doesn’t always mean that you’ll get a yes.
You may still hear “no” most of the time.
However, the person receiving the request will look at the request in a much different light than they would have if you had just asked for it without a fair exchange. They’ll respect the ask and they’ll remember how you made them feel in the moment — respected, valued and appreciated.
How do you handle being asked to do free things or giveaway free product? What do you feel yourself being open and receptive to versus feeling devalued and disrespected for? Leave it in the comments below!