I recently asked a question about whether or not I should start out offering my personal development coaching to the public for free, or charge, and one of the answers posted, suggested that I shouldn't help people for free, because others are trying to make a living from their coaching practices, and my giving away help for free might somehow undermine that, be unfair t them, or make their services less value (i.e. "If I can get it for free, why pay else where?")
This really piqued my curiosity on the subject, and I'd love to get a good detailed discussion going about it. I understand the basis of charging for services because in some ways it builds value and creates more dedicated clients/customers, so I want to just focus on the idea of whether or not we should focus on the "fairness" of what we are doing in terms of other businesses.
Is it unfair to offer your services, skills or talents to the public for free, when there are other professionals out there that are charging for the same services and trying to make a living from them? Even if the services are not made available to those who cannot afford them otherwise, or if those services could make huge positive impacts in other peoples lives?
Should we really be concerned with whether or not we are impacting other services by beating the competition in value and rates?
In Free Market economics, it's survival of the most creative, innovative and most valuable, isn't it?
What do you think? I'm still on the fence about it, though I lean towards the idea that if others felt they were getting a raw deal by someone else charging less, that it would be a chance for improvement and value building, not sulking and complaining.
Many people earn their living this way and you could take that away from them. If you actually know people who cant afford it then that's a whole different story. But in reality you'll get the wealthiest people coming for your free services whereas the needy will be left out.
There are cases where I feel that offering services for free makes sense. I believe in the principle that one person can make a difference. Offering services for free without discriminating can impact the lives of countless individuals. It may be the one thing that can help turn people's lives around. We never know how much of an impact we can have on another individual but that does not mean we should not try.
I offer some services for free such as information to help other authors and individuals with information through my writing and website. In terms of my writing providing information can help to informed others on topics that may be important to them. In terms of information I provide access to various websites through exchanging links or in some cases providing links to websites than may have an impact on others
Providing information may help to increase traffic to my website and raise the ranking of my site in the search engines. Free services to others will always have an impact whether we know it or not. In terms of other sites charging for services it amounts to competition which is not going to change whether you charge a reduced rate or provide services for free.
Wow! I couldn't think of a better way to say it myself. And I probably wouldn't have been half as eloquent about it, lol.
I agree that offering undiscriminating free services, when you have the ability to do so, is a great way to make an impact on the lives of others. Which is one of the reasons I want to offer my services for free, at least for a while, and it's not like I get nothing out of it. I get to contribute, make some adsense revenue and build a reputation as some who not only can help, but as someone who wants to help because they can and they want to.
I see so many who could really use some help, some direction or just someone to be there, and yet, so many don't have the funds to go through other (equally valuable) services. I don't feel that would make my service, or someone else's services, less valuable. Especially since most people -especially those who can afford other services - look down on getting things offered for free, so they usually won't be the ones getting the free services, even though they are openly available to them. Which really means there won't be that much impact on the competition, and even if there was, that is the way a free market is supposed to work, and I agree with you, that competition will vary regardless of whether people charge or don't charge.
The only problem I seemed to run into, is that even those who could clearly use the free services, and cannot afford them, also take the view of "Free = Crap" or scam or not as good. I find it so interesting that so many in our world decide how valuable something is according to the number of paper bills we attribute to it, lol.
how about if you write here on HP, get paid from google and adsense/and help the people who write in and comment to you? Thats how I look at my nursing articles/its a need and to the ones who comment its a free service but in the end Im paid for my hard work through the site.
And I think thats really how I look at the getting paid part...its my hard work that Im paid fo/NOT what I offer...see?
This is a good suggestion. Do this it would help everyone
@RNMSN, I agree and I totally see your point, which is a very good one. Though for me, in many ways, the compensation is the ability to feel I have contributed to the success of others and to the world on a whole, because more successful people (and success doesn't always mean monetary wealth) means a better world for everyone.
I to write here on hubpages to help others, and I definitely enjoy the bonus of getting paid from adsense, hubpages, ebay and amazon. It's definitely nice, though I would do it even without the monetary compensation.
I look at it like this - Free means: No Money charged. It doesn't mean I'm not being compensated. I'm still getting adsense from my coaching blog, a respectable reputation, fulfilling my need to contribute and gaining priceless experiences.
If only the rest of the world looked at it the way we do, right? Free doesn't mean no compensation, it just means no monetary compensation (at least not directly). Then maybe Free would no longer equal Worthless....
Is there a way of offering your services through a voluntary organisation, maybe working with the unemployed or a counselling service?
You know, I don't know. What a good question! I'll have to look around in my area. I haven't ever heard of a non-profit coaching organization that offers their services exclusively to the monetarily-challenged, employment-free or home-deficient... There are plenty of "counseling" and religious services in that mind, but they want fancy pieces of paper or specific spiritual views, neither of which are necessary for coaching, nor do I put all that much value on myself.
You sure have my thinker going though! Thanks for the intriguing question.
Many people see free as inferior! Do what you want and if people that get paid for it don't like it they can always see a counselor..
You could also try liveperson.com where you could offer your services for a fee!!
Our free enterprise system allows for competitive pricing and services. If you feel you can afford to offer your services for free and are comfortable doing so, I don't see anything wrong with it. Many people need things that they can't get because it costs too much. If you have a service that you want to freely offer, where's the harm? If the other companies are losing business because of your free service, then perhaps they should offer some of their services for free to get their talents known. Isn't that what makes a business strong? The better the service and product the more loyal the clientele.
Well said Cherylone! Free enterprise and a Free Market is one reason I love being an American, even though we clearly don't have a totally free market anymore (it's highly regulated), though I hope we go back to it. Still though, we still have the principals of competition, and I love the opportunities available to us because of that.
I don't see the rationale of giving away a service for nothing, unless it is to attract more paying customers in future, or as a means to obtain however many hours experience is needed for some qualification or other.
People often do not value what is offered to them at no cost. If you give your services free, you run a much higher risk of your "clients" not engaging fully with your coaching, so that it ends up being a waste of time on both sides.
Even more to the point, people often view something that is offered at no cost or much more cheaply than other similar services/products as being inferior. Offering your services for nothing could have a damaging effect on how you are perceived in terms of practitioner quality, which could remain even when you start trying to charge for your services.
People who offer quality services/products prove time and time again that there is absolutely no benefit to them in trying to undercut others. In my own business, I refuse to give any discounts whatsoever. I have never yet had to worry about running out of clients, despite there probably being many other service providers who undercut my rates to a substantial degree.
Well, attracting more paying customers is a form of compensation, isn't it?
What about the compensation of being able to contribute? That's a human need that we all have, and we can either contribute in negative ways or positive ways.
I consider taking something from someone (including money) as a negative way to be compensated, NOT because it is "bad" or "wrong", but because you subtract something from your customers and yourself in order to be compensated, even if your service is that valuable and they have the means to pay for it. By charging for your services, you are setting a limit on what you can do (which is a good thing for many) and a value on yourself (which is okay, but can we really set monetary values on ourselves?), according to what someone can pay, and then you subtract that time - effort and service from yourself and then subtract their money from them to try and compensate for the part of yourself that was taken. Then the cycle continues on - you subtract more of yourself to be used by others, then subtract from them in compensation for what was taken. Your clients go on to use what they gained from you, to compensate for what they subtracted from themselves to receive your services.
Again, that doesn't make it wrong, negative is just a way to describe something that doesn't build or that pushes away from itself, where as positive describes something that builds and or adds to itself.
It seems more of a positive way to be compensated, when you don't have to subtract something from someone else or yourself to be compensated. When you give away your help without asking for anything in return, you still get many things in return, but they come to you Because you gave that part of yourself freely and without reservation. Meaning that you neither subtracted from yourself, nor from the other person, and also meaning that what you have done, will build and grow from it's own energy. You won't really be giving anything away, because you're not setting any value or limit on what you can do or offer, and your clients won't have to give anything up (other than their reservations and perceptions of what "free" means), and they receive more than they could have any other way, and because of that they won't "have" to try and compensate themselves for anything lost, but they will have the ability to pass on their own skills and talents, so that the cycle can continue. Think "pay it forward".
And even when you're not charging, there is still compensation. Some of the compensation from that could be:
-Residual revenue (like adsense, affiliate earnings, ebay, amazon, etc...)
-More customers and referrals (some who might even donate to you the same amount they would have been charged)
-Fulfilling your need to feel Significant, Important and worthy of Love
-Fulfilling your need to Contribute and be greater than yourself
-Building a respectable reputation as an expert in your field
-Gaining priceless experiences and skills you wouldn't have otherwise gained.
-Gifts, tips, thank yous and other forms of appreciation
-Job or project offers
-All of the above and more
I agree that offering free services can and often does have damaging views from potential clients because they view "free" as equaling "inferior". That is the thing I am trying to understand. How it is that we've developed this mindset that we must pay in monetarily for something, otherwise it will be worthless, invaluable or some how hurt us. It seems like a fear of rejection or a deep seated fear that we don't deserve to be get help for free.
Even I prefer to pay for something, because I earned the money I'm using to pay, for something I need or want, and no body had to give me "charity". Though I have taken advantage of valuable services offered for free and found great success with those free services, and I'd do it again in the future. To me, free doesn't equal inferior, free equals opportunity.
I also agree that there is no benefit in trying to "undercut" other businesses that are just as valuable as your own. Though I see it as equally correct not to be concerned with whether or not you are undercutting them, when you weren't doing it for the competition in the first place. Being more competitive could be seen as a bonus to it, like earning adsense revenue for the hubs you write. You weren't trying to undercut those who have spent half their lives studying the same subjects, teaching and writing books to help people for a fee, but you did anyways, by contributing to hubpages, and there's nothing wrong with that. You are able to help those that otherwise could not receive that help, education or information, and you were able to do that for them for free, and still be compensated, both monetarily and by being about to contribute their well-being. Is that so wrong?
More importantly, are you still sure that "free" equals inferior? Because if you still believe that, you would have to believe that your hubs are inferior, because they are freely offered to those that need them, that this forum is inferior, because it doesn't charge a membership fee and that all the wealth of information offered in your answer is inferior, because you didn't ask me for anything in return for it.
Thanks for the thought provoking comment WriteAngled
I guess I was the one bringing up the topic of unfairness towards those who have to live from what they have to offer.
I think that giving away services for free (and I do not talk about friends or family or social work on a pro bono basis, but just accepting clients for free to build a basis of clients) is highly unfair towards everybody who tries to work in that field and earn a living doing so. It undermines rates and customs and it creates a field where everybody is trying to find the cheapest service they can find.
Additionally, I do not believe that these clients will accept a higher fee (or any fee, whatever it is) down the road. So even though they might provide ample opportunity to learn and practice, they do not create a stable basis for a solid business later.
Good work deserves good pay, and if I don't charge anybody for my work, what a light am I casting on it? What does that tell about my own picture of my work? Why do I think that I have to resort to this in order to be able to help someone?
If someone wants change in his/her life, and is determined to get to where they want to go, why should they not pay for the advice that will get them there? If they are not even ready to do that, how ready are they to really make any changes?
If you have a service to offer...and you want to offer it for free...that is your decision. There will ALWAYS be things in life where some charge for their services and others don't. Life still moves forward. I would look at it this way: it opens the door for those who aren't able to pay. I own my own business and I sometimes do not charge a fee for my services; other times, I have been known to give a great discount. There is ALWAYS a balance in life. Maybe its my faith that sees me through, but, I see it as this: as long as I do good work...the work will be there for me to do.
I agree with everything said here.
What is your motive in offering your coaching for free?
If you are in a financial position to do this for humanitarian reasons, then go for it.
If your goal is to build up your experience, why not build your bank account at the same time?
Why not institute a sliding scale? That way you can charge different clients different amounts. It makes sense to charge students and the unemployed less. But if someone who wants your service and has the money to pay for it, why wouldn't you take their money?
There IS perceived value in paying for a service. Especially one that requires effort on the part of the client. Much easier to blow off someone (you) when you don't perceive their time as having value.
I would seriously question a provider who wanted to give me the benefit of their professional training for nothing.
See, that's what I find so interesting. For that matter, while I am using my own personal ponderances as an example, it's more hypothetical. One of the reason I am asking, is because I find it so interesting that so many people have been conditioned to believe that something for free is something to be wary of. Maybe it's all the scams, people that make crappy products for less money and such?
There is another aspect to this in my book. We are talking about counseling, which means helping people to utilize their strength and abilities in a better and more beneficial way. But what address they learning from someone who doesn't even consider his own time ad valuable enough to charge them for it? Most of the clients have exactly the same problem and going to a counselor who is in the same position doesn't solve their problem.
As a counselor, you would want to show them that they are worthy, that they have what it takes and that they can do whatever they want. And then you go and tell them 'never mind...'?
In my book, that is inconsistent and I would doubt if that advice would really help me.
The thought that charging someone for your work is taking something away from them points towards a feeling that you do not consider your own service as something of enough value. Normally, what you give to them is so valuable that they are glad to give something back. It levels the playing field.
"I consider taking something from someone (including money) as a negative way to be compensated, NOT because it is "bad" or "wrong", but because you subtract something from your customers and yourself in order to be compensated"
I charge money for the work I do, because I have invested many many years of time, effort, self-deprivation and sheer hard work as well as money to get to the point where I am capable of doing what I do.
Apart from the initial start I got from my parents as a child and student and the free education we get in the UK, I have got where I am by my own efforts. While others frittered away time in clubs and partying, I studied night after night. Later, while still dependent on an employer, I worked in the office all day and then worked until late into the night at home for an unbroken four years to build up a freelance business so eventually I could be free to work for myself with no one standing over me.
I do not see anything negative whatsoever in wanting the best possible return for that huge investment.
Firstly, and most importantly, the money I earn means I can live totally independently, where I want to live, free of any subsidy from another individual or from the state.
I am not rich. Actually, I will never be able to stop working and retire, because my pension prospects will not allow me to do this and still do the things I want to do. Initially, I sort of hoped hubs would give me a residual income and thus be a hobby and an investment simultaneously, but they do not bring in very much.
However, what money I earn over and above my basic needs lets me have well-deserved breaks in pleasant places and pays for all the other things I want to do with my life, such as participating in cultural activities at home and away from home. I do not see why I should deprive myself of these occasional pleasures by depriving myself of earnings through subsidising someone else. Without them, life would be a sheer grind.
Think "pay it forward".
I do volunteer my unpaid time to a certain extent, but choose to do this for political activity, which I consider is potentially of greater impact on society as a whole. I do also contribute financially to groups or individuals when I am moved to do so.
"Fulfilling your need to feel Significant, Important and worthy of Love"
My self-esteem does not rely on reactions from others.
"-More customers and referrals"
I turn down three times as much work as I am offered, and still end up with a huge amount because I try never to turn down a good client more than twice in a row. I get enquiries from new clients several times a week, sometimes several times a day. Most of these I have to ignore.
"Building a respectable reputation as an expert in your field"
I already have this, hence the endless stream of clients wanting me to work on their projects, because I am among the very best in my field.
"More importantly, are you still sure that "free" equals inferior? Because if you still believe that, you would have to believe that your hubs are inferior, because they are freely offered to those that need them, that this forum is inferior, because it doesn't charge a membership fee and that all the wealth of information offered in your answer is inferior, because you didn't ask me for anything in return for it."
I write hubs, participate on the forums etc as a break from work! I'm writing this now at 6am. I've been up all night working, because I need to finish two projects by later today. I've popped in here during one of my many breaks. Anyway, I do actually get some monetary return from my hubs, although not enough to induce me to write them if I did not feel like doing so as a spare-time activity.
One of my hobbies is music. I went out for a harp lesson earlier today. I would not even have dreamt of trying to find someone to teach me for free. My teacher has invested much of her life into becoming an eminent harpist and teacher. I feel amazed and deeply privileged that she has accepted me, a total beginner at the age of 57 with no star performer potential whatsoever, as a pupil, and I gladly pay the fees she charges.
To some degree...all posts above makes some really good points. Just to add a sidenote to my posting above: I work in two separate fields...ONE-I own my own computer repair service, and TWO-I am a counselor. And...what I stated in my earlier post applies to BOTH of my "jobs". I am totally self-employed and love my work. And...when I want to...I give my services FREE OF CHARGE. I truly believe that THAT is what has brought me so many clientele in BOTH of my fields of "expertise". Peace and One Love.
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