Why You SHOULDNT Help Anyone… for FREE

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What I am about to tell you will go against almost every fiber of goodness in your body, it will challenge your beliefs, and may shock you… but according to my experiences, it is largely correct.

Here is the thing… over the years I have tried to stand out of the crowd by being two things:

1) A little outrageous

2) Someone who will go out of their way to help others…. for FREE

I try and reply to virtually every email I receive, and unlike most other people in the industry, I don’t hire someone to do this for me. I don’t have ads on my site (not even adsense), I don’t do paid blog reviews

I almost always give detailed advice and information to people, and I NEVER charge the people that ask for help.

I always go out of my way and use a lot of my time to educate and encourage other webmasters.

But do you know what…

I have been making a huge mistake!

Here is why…

When you try and help someone for free, they subconsciously assign a perceived value of your help, information and time as ZERO.

My girlfriend’s brother is a prime example of this… he is great with cars and great at repairing stuff. A lot of family members and friends are always keen to ask him to fix their stuff… and he always does it for free.

What a nice lad, I bet they are so greatful.

No, they are not!

They may show gratitude at the time, but over time, they start to expect it to be for free, they start to take advantage of him, and sometimes to the point where they are subconsciously seeing no value in him spending all weekend fixing their cars.

Still not convinced… how about this then:

I received a copy of a product that is about to hit the market. The product is selling for over $400 and I managed to get a free copy.

However, on that same day I received a book from Amazon that I had ordered. It cost me just over $10

Can you guess which one I read last night?

Yes, you guessed it… the $10 Amazon book.

I wasn’t even overly interested in the book to be honest, but I read it from cover to cover. Why? Because I paid $10 for it. The other one was FREE.

It may have had a real world value of $400, but I got it for free, so subconsciously it was worthless to me.

Does this make any sense?

It is the same with any product or service.

Aged 10 I used to buy 5 or 6 video games per year, I had a paper delivery round to pay for them. I pretty much spent the time and completed every single one of those games, even the rubbish ones.

However, later in life I discovered (allegedly) that you can get games for free via the Internet. Can you guess what % of the games I own I have spent more than 2 hours playing?

Probably less than 5% of them.

They were free, it doesn’t matter that they are $70 in the shops. My head values them as FREE.

But what if you want to give something back? What if you want to do a good deed?

Well, in my line of work I am lucky enough to spend time with some of the biggest names in the industry. I learn from these people and see them as mentors. One of the things these people tell me is to give something back. Donate some of your time, perhaps even some of your money.

I get this, I agree with it, and I am happy to help.

But here is the thing… you try giving away something of true value on the Internet. It is bloody hard!

As soon as you mention that you are willing to help people for free, they suspect your motives.

“Oh, there must be a catch”

“I bet there will be a hard sell”

“Why would you share this info for free?”

Do you know what… It is easier to convince someone to give you $500 for an hour of your time than it is to convince someone you genuinely want to help them… for FREE.

What’s more, it helps avoid the time wasters.

You see, if I help someone and donate hours of my time to setting a website up for them, do you know what will happen? They WON’T take any action.

But, if I charge them for my time, you can be damn sure they will take action.

It is incredible!

There was a time many years ago when I was looking for some work online, I would speak to people and offer my services, but generally I had very few offers.

Since then my time has become very valuable, so much so that I created a page saying that my buzz marketing services are fully booked.

Guess what… since telling people that no money in the world could tempt me to work for them, I have started receiving regular job offers.

This is due to value, and percieved value.

Now my time is seen as valuable, but when I used to email people for a job, my time was seen as worthless.

So do me a favour… if I ever ask you to take lots of time to help me out with something… please charge me for your time.

Thanks.

Dean (The unlucky Samaritan)

PS: a wise business man once said “you have to value your time before anyone else will”. So if you go around doing stuff for free, people will value your time as zero.

PPS: if you do work for free, YOU will also start to feel that your time is not worth much. Be very careful!

  • ste

    Dean,

    This is so true.

    The vast majority of people will not realise how powerful this life and business lesson actually is. They will think that by doing loads of good deeds for people for free that these people will remember and tell their friends etc. They won’t. Like you said, they will start to expect it to always be free.

    I always charge people if they want any web design work, I would even charge my own mother. This sounds horrible, but it is vital.

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  • http://johan.forngren.com/ Johan Forngren

    Good reading. Thank you!

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  • http://maryspad.com mary

    This is definitely food for thought! I seem to always be doing stuff for people for free – cleaning up computers, installing software, etc. And yes, most people are grateful for the help, but they do start expecting free help and becoming disgruntled if I can’t do it. So the points you make are valid. Thanks for the post!!

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  • http://blog.craigkillick.co.uk Craig Killick

    Agree 100% on that Dean. Value is usually relative and as much as an altruistic approach seems to be the most appropriate way, it seems that value is placed on perception.

    I remember having to re-quote a job by doubling the price because it was deemed too cheap and so wouldn’t have the same value as the competition.

    Should pave the way for you to make more money though!

    Craig

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    Craig,

    I read a story about a woman who owned a jewelry store, she was struggling to sell a certain line of products, so she left a note to her assistant to cut the prices by half.

    However, the assistant misread, and doubled the prices instead.

    When the owner got back from holiday, she was amazed to find out that the entire range had sold out.

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  • http://www.instantsupersites.com Nick The Geek

    Hey Dean

    Yep – this is exactly what I’ve experienced too.

    I spent years doing little jobs for free for people or cutting my prices because I felt sorry for them and wanted to give them a break … and surprise, surprise – they either did bugger all with the website or I find out later that they could have paid the full price for my services and just pleaded poverty to get some money off. B*st*rds.

    I hope karma comes back and kicks the sh*t out of them.

    Now I don’t do anything for free – in fact, I doubled my original prices and will probably end up tripling them early next year.

    A friend of mine summed it up best when he said …

    “No good favour goes unpunished!”

    Cheers

    Nick :(

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    Nick,

    “No good favour goes unpunished!”

    Brilliant! and so true.

    I imagine a lot of people will struggle with this concept. There is a lot of guilt in society, and we feel we are bad people by charging, yet we are all more than happy to pay a small fortune for a bottle of water.

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  • http://opensourceinnovation.wordpress.com Innovation Catalyst

    Dean

    How do you reconcile this new insight with this:

    http://deanhunt.com/human-psychology-101/

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    Good question.

    The one you are reffering to is a sales technique, it would be used to tempt people to give you their email address etc… and can be used effectively as a one-off.

    The current post is more of an every day life message. It is about family and friends respecting you more. It can also be applied to business though, so I see what you are saying.

    In summary, the first one is a one-off event, you do this once and only once. The latter is a rule to live by.

    Dean

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  • http://www.byronrode.co.za Byron Rode

    Dean,

    Long time. Sorry been super busy here at work and have hardly had to time to read your blog let alone comment.

    Your article is so true, I have known this for years, and yet I still would offer my services for free. It definitely goes down to either, feeling sorry for them or trying to make an “impression”…

    I learnt the hard way from that, as you may know, and I have now learnt to charge where charging is due.

    As an example, I charged one of my clients to develop a Spam Blocking form, half the price that it would have cost them to design an entire website, with said form included. Whereas previously I would have done it for peanuts.

    I learnt that there is no friends in business, and that the only emotion that one should “allow” into his/her business, is the PASSION to make more money and become a valuable asset to the market you chose.

    This is how I work now: If my prices are too steep, then go somewhere else and pay half the price, you’ll get half the value!

    Thanks Dean..
    Have a great one!

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  • http://coolcostumes.net Tom

    Very true article ! I can’t count all the things I’ve done for free for friends. You’re right when you say people show their gratitude once, then it seems for us you’re “upgrading your job”.

    It’s also true for help by phone. For example, I’ve built several PCs for friends, adding components in cases and installing softwares. When they have to use a software and don’t really know how it works, they just call or send an email. It’s like being a hotline, customer support, so you work more than once for them.

    What I think also is that people view the things you do for them as something you like. Since you like to do it, it’s a passion or something, and you can do it for free. Like a rockstar : “I don’t do this for money, only for music”.

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  • http://www.technomoney.net/ Ruchir

    Well, blogging is essentially free. You write all the blog posts on your blog for free. Your readers don’t pay you…

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  • http://www.getpaidtofart.com 2ThePoint

    I wouldn’t charge my family to do stuff for them, but I do know that they take my time for granted often. They kinda assume that ‘cos I’m single and have no kids, that I have more time on my hands than the rest of they family. The sad thing is that even though I’m learning to say ‘No, I’m busy’, ‘No, I can’t babysit this week’, I do feel guilty for saying so.

    And in regards to not doing things for free, you might find DoshDosh’s post interesting (www.doshdosh.com/why-are-you-giving-away-content-for-free)

    take care…

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  • http://AskChristoph.com Christoph

    Dean,
    Great post – thanks for the reminder!
    Although I know better I keep making the same mistake.

    The perceived value – this is what it boils down to.
    I also have first hand experience from the biotech industry where a company didn’t get a bid for the sole reason that the quote was perceived as too inexpensive…

    Best – cristoph
    .-= Christoph´s last blog ..Don’t Eat The Marshmallow Yet =-.

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  • http://www.InformationProducts.com David Shillito

    Hi Dean. This reminds me of a Perry Marhshall (AdWords Guru) blogpost

    Someone had approached him at a seminar and offered to buy him lunch in exchange for a little advice and Perry declined.

    The guy wrote in, all indignant. Perry threw the exchange open to his subscribers to observe the ‘polarity response’ – which he sure got

    The quote that stuck with me from the whole thing? …

    “No one would ask a salesman for his goods without charge, and no one would be surprised if a salesman declined any such request. I’m a consultant, not a salesman. Advice, not widgets, is what I sell”

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  • Myra

    I needed to hear that. For 8 months I have been helping a university set up their research unit. I was promised to be paid in phases as the targets were being achieved. I have never been paid. I guess they value my time as zero. I am handing in their projects on friday and opting out. I would rather spend my time planting vegetables cause at least i will be paid for it as opposed to being assigned fancy titles with absolutely no pay. Thanx alot.

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