How to stop working for free
What comes up for you when I talk about working for free?
You might be thinking: “This doesn’t affect me; I charge for everything in my business. My boundaries are clear”.
I invite you to take a closer look.
I think we all have something to learn here.
I notice it's creeps back in sometimes, even though I’ve been teaching money mindset for over ten years! Like giving free business advice to friends or overdelivering.
Of course we want to be generous. We want to help people but we have a finite amount of energy.
Let’s see if you’ve got any little leaks around overdelivering. If you're really honest you might find out that you're literally working for free.
If you’re struggling to get paying clients, it's probably because you're not energetically open for business. Instead, your energy is open for people to swap goods and services with you.
In this episode, you'll learn:
- The key secret to promoting yourself
- How to spot energy leaks and plug ‘em
- The few times when it's ok to work for free
- Why you should NEVER, EVER barter
- How NOT to run a rose farm!
CLICK HERE TO READ ↓
Denise Duffield...: Hey, gorgeous. It's Denise here and today we are talking about working for free. But before we do that, I actually just want to introduce myself a little bit further, because recently I was recording something and I realized I didn't know the pronunciation of a few people's names. So I had to go searching for them on their videos. And I found so many people would do these videos and never once introduce themselves. And I would be sitting there going, "Surely they're going to say their name soon." And they didn't. And I just thought it was a really important thing to tell you is say your name. If you're doing blog posts, or videos, or even podcasts, not everyone knows who you are, but it's okay just to tell people your name and it's powerful to tell people your name. And so I actually made a deliberate decision when I started my business, not to say my name is. I would say, "I'm Denise Duffield-Thomas." And it was just a slight, I don't know, it was just like a little nuance to me of just claiming who I am. "I'm Denise Duffield Thomas."
So if you don't know me, Denise Duffield Thomas. But I am a writer. I write nonfiction, personal development and business books about money, about money mindset. My first book is called Lucky Bitch. Then I wrote a money book called Get Rich, Lucky Bitch. And then I have a business book called Chill & Prosper. And I live in Australia. I have three kids, two dogs. I work with my husband, Mark, and I'm a money mindset mentor. So my job, my calling in life, my business is to help people, mostly entrepreneurs and mostly female entrepreneurs, to be honest, to work on their money mindset issues, so they can make more money. So together we can change the world. That's who I am.
So the reason why I took that moment to do that is because I want to just make sure that you are doing that too. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself. And don't be afraid to introduce yourself on your social media too, every now and again. Set up a monthly thing of going, "Here's who I am." But on your videos, especially, because you never know who's out there Googling you, trying to figure out how to pronounce your last name properly. Super important. And it took me so long to find... I had to probably do about 12 people's names and I reckon only one or two actually had said their own name in all of their videos. So do that. And it is related to today's topic, because we're talking about breaking out of the habit of working for free. Now don't click me off if you're like, "I don't do this," because we all do it and we have to be vigilant of where we are doing it. So don't think, "Oh, no, no, I'm fine with charging."
Hopefully you'll still get something out of today's episode. And if you are stuck in places where you are not charging for work, then you'll get something out of it, too. Something for everybody. So if you are new in your business, one of the most symbolic milestones that you can do is graduating yourself from free to paid work. And I use that word graduate very deliberately, because if you are in a company you're a junior and then you're a senior. And that happens outside of your control sometimes. Yeah, you might apply for a promotion, but it's always someone else to do it.
When is in your own business, you have to promote yourself. You have to graduate yourself. And nobody is really going to tell you when it's time. And so I see people they're like, "Oh, I need to make sure I get enough testimonials and then I'll charge," or, "I need to make sure I feel comfortable and then I'll charge." And that can be never ending. It could go on forever. So you have to decide, "Oh, no, I've got enough experience now. Now I can charge." And there are often a lot of leaks that come out around this working for free. So at some point you just have to decide that you're ready, because you're have enough testimonials. You'll never be validated enough. You'll never feel like you're ready. So it's totally okay.
And there's times where it's fine and appropriate to work for free. And sometimes it's not. So see where it's leaking out for you. Now, the first thing I'm so passionate about is bartering. So bartering is swapping goods and services, doing energy exchanges with people. Now you might think I'm a total B word for saying to not barter with other entrepreneurs. And I am passionate about this, because it sets up such a murky energy. If you are struggling to get paying clients right now, it's probably because you're not energetically open for business. You're energetically open for people to swap goods and services with you. I know it sounds harsh, because I know it feels kind and it feels like, "Oh, we don't need money."
But if you're struggling for clients and you do want to make money from your business, it is such an energy leak, because then people, they just know energetically, they can get something for you. So it attracts more of it. Does that make sense? And so see where this has crept in, because you might have heard me say this a million times. You go, "Yes, yes, Denise. I'm not doing it anymore." But it still might have crept in a little bit. And I'll tell you where it's crept in for me. Giving free business advice to friends.
It's not a set arrangement where they're like, "Oh, I'll tell you, you tell me." But there's a couple of people who will sometimes overstep that boundary with me. And I just think, "Hang on. This goes beyond friendship. This is just like, "I can't be bothered holding that space for you in that particular part of your business."" So that is an energy leak for me of just going, "I don't have to even help my friends if I don't feel it." I'm allowed to have business friends who we don't even talk about business with. And I love that. I've got business friends who we do chat about business, but we go to the movies together or we go to the theater together and our friendship is not about business coaching each other. Does that make sense?
So it's coming up for me all the time or just where I feel like, "Oh, I feel obligated to help people with their business," or, "I feel obligated to promote someone's business." That is still one of those energy exchange relationships that might have crept in for you recently. So see where that's happening. And I've realized recently there's some things I just don't talking about with some of my business friends. I'll hold space for them, but I realize I'm like, "Oh, I don't really it when a friend calls me just to dump and complain to me. I don't like it." So now I'm like, "I just don't have space for that." Yeah, it's weird. But that's where it could be coming in for you, even if you've heard it before.
If you are having literally relationships with people where it's like, "I'll make your website, you do this thing for me." It's totally okay to set an end point for those and say, "Hey, listen, I just want to formally close off this relationship." And say no. It's okay to say no. And just say, "No, I don't have the space for it." Now where this could be coming up too where you think, "Oh, that's not the same thing" is around non-profits and charities, or industries that have a whiff of non-profit energy, even if it's not true. So a good example, I get asked to speak for free all the time at women's conferences. And I feel bad about it, because I'm very passionate about women in business. I want women to succeed. Often I get asked by people who it's their first conference, they need a marque speaker, or they think I can add value to their event. And it's framed as a way of giving back. It's not a charity. It's not a nonprofit, but it's framed in a way of, "If you cared about this topic, you would come and speak."
These one's are really hard one for me, because I think being an introvert, I wouldn't do that for fun. I don't go and speak on stages for fun. Whereas some of my extrovert friends, they're like, "I don't care. I'll speak anywhere," because it lights them up. For me, it comes at a cost of "I have to get my hair and nails done to feel confident. I have to go the night before, because I live three hours from the biggest city." It costs me money. It costs me opportunity costs away from my business. It costs me energy. As well as. And that's not even the point of what it costs me. It's just sometimes people, they want what you have, but they don't want to pay for it. And so be aware of where you feel obligated to give of yourself in ways that don't feel good. And it could even be that you're not speaking for free, but just your rate doesn't feel worth it. So see where it's like, "Yeah. But if you cared, you would do it."
And that could be volunteer positions. It could be, "No one else is going to do this." It could be moderation in Facebook groups, being a free moderator. It could be solving everyone's problems. It could be being an agony aunt to all of your friends and family. It could be being the go-to for all your friends and family. My family, try and get me to solve every problem with their life sometimes, because I'm smart and I know lots of stuff. And sometimes I'm like, "I don't know." And they're like, "Uh?" And I go, "Figure it out." And so it could be that of just going, "Oh, I'm trying to solve all the problems for people in their life."
It could be even that when you say no to it, a non-ideal client, but then you try and go, "But let me make a referral for you," and let me do this and let me do this, instead of just going, "Nope, that's not something I can help you with." I've had to learn that recently, because that is an energy leak around your time and it's working for free for no reason. We're going to take a break and then I've got some other little juicy questions for you about where you could be still working for free and how to overcome that. See you in a sec.
Mar: Hi, this is Mar and I am in Wisconsin and I am the owner of a few small businesses. And I have been reading the latest book by Denise, Chill & Prosper, and I'm finding it absolutely valuable, full of tips and tricks on making things simpler and more productive and efficient and ideas on how to change my mindset to really go after the things that I want. So thanks so much for this wonderful book. Thanks.
Karen Farrell: Hi, Denise. It's Karen Farrell here. I'm a mindfulness teacher based in London, but I'm originally from Darwin. Now, I know what you're going to say, "I've never actually met anyone from Darwin." That's what everyone says to me. Anyway, but I'm sure you have met people from Darwin. Anyway. I just wanted to say how much I am loving Chill & Prosper. It has made me realize that I can boss my mindset and that business doesn't have to be hard. In fact, if you just take a step back, enjoy the process, go with the flow, you can Chill & Prosper.
Denise Duffield...: Welcome back. So today's episode sometimes brings up stuff for people, because we want to be generous, we want to help people, but we only have so much energy. We only have so much time. So you might be thinking again, "No, I charge for everything that I do." But here are some other places where it could be showing up for you. Over delivering with your clients. You might think, "No, there's money involved." But just because someone gives you money, it doesn't mean that you're responsible for everything in their life. It doesn't mean that you can accept clients not being nice to you, overstepping boundaries, taking up too much time and energy.
So let me give you a couple examples of this. So you might have a client who never pays on time. That's essentially you working for free. You might have a habit of not taking payment upfront and then you do work for people and they go, "Oh, no, no, no. I'm not interested anymore." That's working for free. You might have a client who's paid you to do one thing and you do 50 other things for them. That's working for free. And I'll give you an example on that.
My friend, Victoria Gibson, when she started her business, she did Facebook ad management for people and she's a brilliant marketer and she's a coach now for life coaches. But I remember she'd get people's ads and then she'd go, "Oh, this copy is no good. I'll just do their copy," because she was good at a bit of everything. And then she'd go, "Oh, we're sending them to this landing page. Oh, that's terrible. I'll ask them for their login and I'll fix their landing page." And then she'd go, "Oh, this image is so crap. I'll just quickly just create them a new image." And so she was being everything to them and they were only paying her to do Facebook ad management.
So where is this showing up for you? I've done it myself too, where you go, "God, they need this. Now they need this. Now they need this," and you go, "It's just easier for me to do it." You might have scope creep all the time. So you might have someone who's paid you to edit five pages of something and they've sent you a 25-page document and you go, "Oh, it's only just an extra bit of whatever. I'll just do it." That's costing you money. That's working for free. And not only that, it's probably taking you time away from attracting other clients. So see where you've got those little leaks happening around over delivering. If you're really honest with some of your costs, you might find out that you're literally selling things for free.
So I love this example. My friend, Leon Dawson, she's a brilliant entrepreneur and she's an author too, but she's an artist. And in one of her first businesses, she was selling artwork. And because she's a bit of an alchemist and bit of a hippie, she was just not really paying attention to the numbers back then. She does now. But she figured out once she finally did her numbers of going, "By the time I paid for the paper, and the postage, the box and all that kind of stuff, she was losing, I think she said like $4 an artwork. And that's not even really including the time that she put into it. So she was just like, "Ugh." So she was literally working for free in that way.
The same thing happened. I own a rose farm and we bought it as a holiday house for our family. It just happened to have a hobby farm attached to it. So we're like, "Why not? We'll sell roses." So we hired someone to help us. And we lost a bunch of money on selling roses. We were essentially selling roses for free people. Didn't buy them for free, but we may as well have just given them away and we would've been better off. And so we found a different way to do it. We've got people who sell them for us now. So sometimes it's just about tweaking little things, but getting really honest about the cost to you, because it might not even be a monetary cost. It might be an energy cost where you're basically feeling like, "Oh, I'm basically just doing this for free. It's no benefit to me at all." Even things promotional activities that you think, "Oh. Yeah, this is worth it."
So I go on a lot of podcasts. I'm constantly being interviewed on people's podcasts, but I had to learn to be a bit more discerning on the podcasts I went on to. One, because sometimes people who were brand new, they were like, "I'd love you to come and be my first guest on my new podcast." And I'd go, "Yay. I want to support you so badly." So I'd do an hour with them. And then they would go, "Oh, I've changed my mind. I actually got so inspired by our conversation. I'm going to go in off a completely new direction." So I essentially worked for free for that hour. I was never getting paid for it in the first place, but there was going to be a benefit for me of being on that podcast that it would be live. It would go out to people.
And so I had to be more discerning and go, "Okay, I'm only going to go on established podcasts. You don't need a ton of them or this is back then, but I need to know that you're not a flake that you're actually going to get over the tech hurdles and make this live." I also found that when I went on brand, brand, brand-new podcasts, I'd get on and they were like, "I forgot to hit record," or their microphone didn't work or whatever. And so I just went, "It's not that I'm too good for it." I just went, "It's just not a good use of my time. It's essentially working for free."
The next level to that was looking at the right fit. I went on a podcast, went on back when I was just doing any of them, I went on once like more of a male audience, which is not my audience, or an age range that was not my audience, or an industry that was not my audience. And they just thought, "Oh, Denise she's good. She can come on here." But it was essentially working for free, because it was zero point of me... There was no benefit at all.
So see where you need to be a bit more strategic in where you're spending your time. Maybe you're spending a lot of time in groups that are no longer where your clients are hanging out, or you're expending time and energy on social media and your audience is not on that particular thing. So that's what I'm talking about is it's not just always about saying, "Oh, no, I'm charging for this." It's really being discerning about where your time and energy is best suited, where your budget is best suited, because it's totally fine. Working for free strategically, sometimes you need experience, or you want to promote your work, or a sales strategy, or to be aligned with a particular person, or be exposed to audiences and things like that. Look, if Oprah calls you and says, "I'm doing a Oprah's favorite things thing," you'd never say, "Oh, no, I'm going to charge Oprah." You'd go, "Yeah. Cool," because you see the value in it.
Sometimes you can just renegotiate things and go, "Look, it worked up to a point, but now it doesn't." This is particularly true if you've got any product-based business or you've got hard costs. Everyone's costs have gone up recently. If you are selling things and your costs have gone up 30%, you have to increase your prices, otherwise you're doing it for free. If you have ungrateful clients who don't even respect you anyway, and you're not making money out of it, you're essentially working for free. So this is where you can go, "Well, God, if I'm working for free anyway, I may as well just do the business how I want to do it, have fewer clients and actually make money." So it's totally fine.
You might also realize that it's totally okay to do little things for free, but with boundaries. You might say, "Look, I'm a website designer. I will critique one page for you," or, "I will edit one page for you, just for you to sample my work." That's a completely different thing. But then if you're not good at the delivering thing, then you might have to set some boundaries around that. That's totally fine. I have a resource for you actually. It's called the Awkward Money Conversations book. It's got a ton of scripts about how to have awkward conversations, about how to say no to requests for discounts and things like that. It's at denisedt.com/awkward. Just awkward, how it's spelled, A-W-K-W-A-R-D. It's just a normal way of spelling out awkward. And there's stuff in there about what to say if someone says, "Hey, can I work with you for free?" But also "Can I pick your brain," or how to set boundaries with your clients around time.
If you've got a client who always goes for two hours and they've only paid for an hour, it's your job to set the framing around that? "Hey, we've only got an hour together. Hey, we're at 30 minutes. Okay. Ah, cool. Well, we'll talk about that next time." Because people will always take your free information, they will take your free time, they will not necessarily deliver what they've promised, if they've said, "Oh, you can do it for testimonial." Most of the time you don't get the testimonial. You have to nag for it. They will take your free information. Not to be mean and rude, but if you are someone who never tells them the next step, you never give boundaries around it, then it's not going to happen. They won't just go, "Let me give you money for it."
So see where any of those leaks have come into your life around it. As I said, if you're bartering with other people, if you're doing things for free that you can renegotiate, if you're volunteering in ways that no longer serve you, if you're being asked to speak for free and you don't want to do it, if you have to tighten up your boundaries around What criteria for you to do it, then just sit and have a little think about it. And, as I said, I've got that resource for you at denisedt.com/awkward. And I'm sure it's going to bring up some stuff for you. It's okay. You can just do one little thing at a time. Start with the things that stresses you out the most and it will free up some time and energy for you. All right, my gorgeous. Don't go away. I have got one last final thought for you after this last ad break. Not ad break. Just people talking about my work, which I love. Okay, bye. See you in a sec.
Isabelle Pino: My name is Isabelle Pino. I am a brand and business mentor for quirky entrepreneurs from Caracas, Venezuela. I recently read Get Rich, Lucky Bitch and the amount of breakthroughs and aha moments I had was incredible. It really helped me identify little moments in my life that had a bigger impact than I thought they did. And I feel identifying the big money blocks is easier than seeing all the little ones. So I'm really thankful that this book helped me see both the big and the little and gave me practical tips to work through both.
Dr. Denise Jaco...: Hi, this is Dr. Denise Jacobs at Palms Acupuncture and Wellness. And I initially got introduced to Denise DT through her book, Get Rich, Lucky Bitch. And it really changed my perspective and helped me be a better clinic director and take a hold of what I really wanted. Thanks, Denise, from another Denise.
Denise Duffield...: Hey there and welcome to my final thought. It's really understanding that you have value. Your time has value. Your expertise has value. Your credibility has value. Your creativity has value. Your ability to hold space for people, that has value. And so sometimes we get muddied, because we feel bad. We think, "Oh no, it's not enough." So sometimes you just have to remind yourself "I have value." And I want you to send me a message or a tweet or whatever. I'm @DeniseDT across all social media. And tell me what you're going to put in there, like, "My words have value. My time has value. My creativity has value. My presence has value." Which one do you need to say to go to this next level in your business? Because you do have value, your words, your time, your energy, your creativity has value, and it's okay to charge for that. And as I said, I've got those resources for you at denisect.com/awkward. But I Would love to hear for you. Tell me what thing of value you need to work on.
And I will see you next week for another episode of Chill & Prosper. Take care. Bye.
About the Show
Chill and Prosper is your weekly dose of money mindset, marketing and humour from best-selling author and entrepreneur Denise Duffield-Thomas.
Denise's philosophy is that there is ALWAYS an easier way to make money and that's what she's here to help you do. Each week, you'll get actionable advice to help you make more money, with less work. There's no need to hustle - let Denise show you how to embrace the Chillpreneur way.
Be sure to hit subscribe so you don't miss an episode!