Been meaning to write this for a while but writing anything on a blog takes effort these days when the Twitter/Snapchat/FB timesink takes you away. Just like the remote control turned us into nonstop channel clickers where we never settle on a station, social media is doing the same for longform content. Which is why we’re seeing Tweet 1 of 15 instead of a blog post.
I think we all need to work harder at communicating our value to others and to ourselves. Sadly in Ireland, anything that’s low price is seen as not having value and anything that’s a high price has lots of value. Many times it’s the other way around. I keep on going back to the idea that people won’t buy a newspaper for €2 but will spend €4 on a coffee and buy a few of them in a day. If you are good at what you do, then there has to be a value exchange between you and the person you are doing work for. “A ‘thank you’ costs nothing”, how true. Thanks doesn’t pay for your heating. Thanks isn’t payment but payment is thanks.
Saying no to doing things for people is hard for many of us, isn’t it? We feel that saying no is not nice or is classed as rude. Of late I’m archiving emails and not replying to people that solicit free advice and never want to pay. It’s better than me replying with an invoice for €150, right? It’s taken me years but now when someone asks me to give a talk I ask “what’s your budget?”. For 2017, I’m all about equality. Everyone gets treated the same and gets this as a GIF:
"There's no budget but you'll probably get work from the talk" "I'll get work because I'm good so you can pay for the talk, thanks" pic.twitter.com/aeeuWuRImZ
— Damien Mulley ¸ (@damienmulley) January 13, 2017
So here is my take on why doing something, even small for free is not good for me or you.
Want to meet me for a coffee?
Let me explain how that works. I disrupt my day to have coffee with you where you want to pitch me something or get free advice from me. 30 minutes means 60 minutes. Me getting from where I am takes 30 mins and going back to where I am is 30 minutes. So that coffee is now 2 hours of my time gone. I’ve knocked two hours out of my flow during the day so that’s maybe an hour to get back into that flow. So basically three hours of my day has been taken up.
Want to meet me for a coffee? €700 cashmoney plz.
Want me to speak at your event?
I am really good at what I do. So when I come and give a talk I will give a talk that normally knocks it out of the park for the people attending. There are few people better than me at enlightening people about digital marketing. Entertaining, educational and inspiring. That’s value. For you and those at it. I’ll make you look good for hiring me in. Asking me to do it for free is disrespectful and just plain miserly. I’m a known entity, this is not arrogance. You’re not doing me a favour here by giving me a platform in fairness. “But you’ll get work from it” is perfectly correct. That’s what happens when you’re good but I created lots of value, return that with money.
Some advice after seeing me talk?
You paid to attend an event that I spoke at? Great. Did the ticket include a short one to one with me? Am I still on the clock? Maybe I am but I am not your employee, please respect that. You can of course email me but see below.
Emailing me a quick question?
Do you think I’m sitting at my computer or refreshing my email on my phone waiting for your email? You sent me a reminder email about the email you sent wanting me to go off and get you a solution for something. So you’d like me to pause paid client work for you or you want me to use up what little non-work time I have to do this for you? Do you even Google Bro?
You’re very expensive
Damned right. I worked a long time for people not to regard me as being low value. Took me 30 minutes to figure out what to do? How long will it take you? How many hours did it take me to get good at what I do? Yeah. My ten years of experience knows where to hit the right spot with the hammer. This has been attributed to Henry Ford in some places and to others before him in other spaces but it’s correct whoever did say it “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.” — Henry Ford
Or another way, over the next 6 months, that 30 minutes of help I gave you has saved you how much in time or has gained you how much in revenue? Yeah.
There are exceptions
People I’ve done work for before, people I will work for again. People would take a bullet for me, people who are recommending me to others, people who I know will do a favour for me.
When to do something for free
There are times though where you give advice or give talks without payment. Value still needs to be exchanged though.
For a favour:
Shep Gordon, the super-manager to the stars worked a “coupon” system. You did him a favour, he could ask one of you. It worked really well.
For talks. Like a comedian, when you’re trying out new material you’ll try out the material many times in many locations. Here the value is you got a free platform for untested stuff.
You’re a New Entity
If you’ve not got much experience in public speaking or are not a known entity then go ahead and give a free talk. It’ll get your name on a billing, you’ll be associated with others speaking, if you’re good, those in the room will spread news of your expertise.
You want to level up
Maybe you want to be on the billing as rockstars in an industry, if that’s the case you might work for free and you’d be the one contacting the organisers.
Some speakers and some sponsors of mine ask for the contact details of those at the event. Nope. I do send out mailers and put contact details and links to special offers in the mailers though. If you’re giving a talk, ask for your contact details to be sent out in a mailer including a link to your website or to your mailing list. You have a mailing list, right? Or I’ve offered a free document to accompany my talks (and mention it in the talk) and that has all my details in it.
Get them to write a reference that you can use or they actively go out and mail a few friends recommending your work. A link from their website to yours is good too.
Don’t run your own free talk
50-70% of people won’t turn up if you give tickets away to your event. Charge a minimum price. €5 or €15. No shows are huge the closer to zero the ticket prices are. If someone spent €15 there’s a much greater chance they’ll turn up. Or charge higher but the ticket price can be used as a discount for consultancy or training.
Don’t you organise conferences and not pay people?
Yes, I did. The Measurement Conference is on hold as I need to work on a pricing model where all the speakers get paid. To pay all your speakers at a conference can become quite costly if it’s low revenue or the tickets are cheap. Say you pay each speaker €500 (which is a low price for what they bring) and you have ten speakers, that’s €5k just for speakers. I try and make the Measurement Conferences good value for those attending and try and also keep the crowd small. Tickets were €30, €50, €100 for a full day. Now if you are one of the rake of digital conferences you see in Ireland that charge €300 or €400 and pack 100s of people in to the event, you can well afford paying 20 speakers €500 a pop. I was asked to speak for free at an event in Cork City Hall where they were charging €300 per person and expected 500+ at it. Half the speakers were sponsors too. Please.
Do you chicken out when asking for money
Consider that it’s your money they’re keeping. Find it awkward to ask for money? Hire someone to be your bagman. There are plenty of virtual assistant type services that can email or phone people back and take a booking for your services. They’re happy to email with your rates and asking do they want to make a booking. They’re getting paid to do it.
The Fuck You, Pay Me line is from a Mike Monteiro talk where he quotes from Goodfellas. You need to watch it, it’s the best talk any business person can watch.